Report: From Tear Gas to Snipers, Dogs to Tanks, Ferguson Police Violated Mike Brown Protestors

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 01, 2015

From tanks to snipers to tear gas to dogs, the law enforcement response to protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, last year turned the city into a battle zone. A new report from the U.S. Justice Department confirmed what many activists have been saying for months: The police aggravated community unrest in the days following Michael Brown’s murder on August 9, 2014. 

The report, a summary of which was obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with the full text set to be released later this week, found that “vague and arbitrary” orders to keep protesters moving “violated citizens’ right to assembly and free speech, as determined by a U.S. federal court injunction.” 

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services-generated report also said that allowing officers to remove their nametags “defeated an essential level of on-scene accountability that is fundamental to the perception of procedural justice and legitimacy.” And it concluded that the police made the situation more tenuous by withholding crucial information, particularly when it came to the shooter, then-officer Darren Wilson. According to the document, “had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened.” 

The report also took issue with tactics the department used to control the crowd, saying that dogs incited fear and anger, and that tear gas was at times employed without warning and in areas where protestors could not safely retreat from the toxin. It also admonished police officials for heightening tension via sharpshooters positioned in the area. And while agreeing with the level of response at some times during the protests, the Justice Department noted that “elevated daytime response was not justified and served to escalate rather than de-escalate the overall situation.”

The full report is expected to detail 45 areas where law enforcement needs to improve, along with recommendations on how it can make the changes.