Missouri Director of Public Safety Dan Isom told reporters on Friday afternoon that part of local law enforcement’s instruction during the past 100 days was sensitivity training.
The information was revealed at a St. Louis Mayor presser discussing how law enforcement plans on handling the events following the announcement of the grand jury as to whether or not Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted on any charges for fatally shooting 18 year old Mike Brown last August. The controversial incident set off protests last summer that led to violent face offs between protesters and police.
“The police department has been working over the past 100 days to give sensitivity training to their officers, but I think the biggest key and I’ll get back to this is that we’ve been dialoging with various people throughout the community,” Isom said. “So I believe we’ve gotten to the point where we have some understanding about how we’re going to interact with each other as this thing unfolds. My hope is that because of that, you will not have the necessity to do any of that.”
Isom explained, “Well, I think one of the biggest things is to try to work on restraint–try to understand people’s perspective. People have fear and anger and we need to have some understanding of that and we need to have some empathy and also a little bit of patience. I think those things are something officers are learning and I believe they’re going to demonstrate it this time.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder similarly urged restraint: “It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms,” he said in a video posted Friday to the Department of Justice website.
Mayor Francis Slay told reporters if there are protests, his administration expects “some of the protesters will be disruptive. They will likely try, as they did in October, to inconvenience people to make their point.”
He went further, saying:
If protesters are not violent, police will not be aggressive. But, if some protesters turn violent or threatening, police will respond to keep everyone safe — including bystanders, the peaceful protesters, and police officers themselves.
When demonstrators are being civilly disobedient, they will, in most cases, be given a chance to adhere to the law before they are arrested. And then, if necessary, they will be arrested in a non violent manner.
Depending on the circumstances, we may allow them to occupy public space longer than normally tolerated. That will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Our departments will dress appropriately to protect themselves –not to intimidate peaceful protesters.
Police tactics will not change based on the words protesters use — but their actions.
The 19-item proposal put forth by protest leaders, Mayor Slay told reporters, was a request and that “nothing was in effect.”
“This is not considered an agreement. No negotiations. This was an effort to try to engage with protesters’ leadership as a line of communication. What are their concerns? What are they looking at? That was very helpful to us in order for law enforcement and us to do our job,” he said.