Department of Justice admonishes Ferguson police

Ferguson police chief's apology scorned
Ferguson police chief's apology scorned

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Ferguson police chief's apology scorned 02:28

Story highlights

  • Department of Justice asks that officers not wear "I am Darren Wilson" bracelets
  • Department also tells police to ensure officers' name tags are visible on uniforms
  • Police chief tried to approach protesters before a scuffle breaks out early Friday
  • Chief apologizes in a video to the Brown family and peaceful protesters
The U.S. Department of Justice says it's concerned about actions taken by the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department in recent days.
Two letters to Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson this week from Justice Department chastised Ferguson police over what officers were wearing -- and in some cases, not wearing.
Specifically, the department took issue with some officers wearing bracelets that say "I am Darren Wilson," and other officers who were not wearing their name tags.
"Officers wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability," Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a September 23 letter obtained by CNN. "The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to the community that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity."
The department requires officers to wear a "name tag" with their first initial and last name on both their shirt uniform and jacket, according to the letter.
The "I am Darren Wilson" bracelets are "exacerbating an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson," Lopez said in a separate letter dated Friday. "These bracelets reinforce the very 'us versus them' mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exist."
Lopez did acknowledge the "importance of individual expression" of officers in the letter.
Ferguson has been marred by discord and distrust of authorities -- especially among those in its large African-American community -- since the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teenager killed by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, who is white.
Despite demands by protesters, Wilson has not been charged in this case, though a grand jury is hearing evidence that could lead to an indictment.
Tensions in the St. Louis suburb rekindled this week after one of three memorials for Brown was burned.
While many peaceful protesters took to the street Tuesday night, elements within the demonstration stoked chaos, attacking police with guns, rocks and bottles and vandalizing and looting businesses, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. One person threw a Molotov cocktail at a parking structure, and there was an attempt to set a gasoline fire at a custard shop, he said.
Two officers were injured, one of whom was struck by a rock below the eye, Johnson said.
Police chief tries to apologize
Emotions spiked following an appearance by Chief Jackson late Thursday night to address the crowd and take questions from protesters.
Earlier in the day, he apologized for his department's actions after Michael Brown's shooting but pledged not to resign.
Dramatically wading into the crowd, Jackson apologized again.
"I'm sorry, and I said that from my heart," he said. "I had to get that off my chest. It's been sitting there for two months."
But not everyone was anxious to hear from him.
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Ferguson police chief: I'm truly sorry
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"If you are not resigning tonight, go home," one man said on a bullhorn.
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"What do you want me to do?" Jackson asked a protester. "Talk to me."
It was shortly after Jackson agreed to walk and talk with the demonstrators that a scuffle broke out a short distance behind the chief, and officers moved in to make arrests. There was no indication that Jackson was directly threatened, but he was quickly escorted inside the police department building.
"Trust -- it takes time," Johnson told CNN on Friday. "I talked to the chief this morning. I think he regrets going out there last night,
Chief says he's sorry Brown's body wasn't moved sooner
In a CNN interview, Jackson addressed his rationale for staying on the job and not resigning.
"This is mine, and I'm taking ownership of it," he told CNN.
Jackson's interview with CNN came Thursday afternoon, shortly after the release of his video apology to Brown's parents and the peaceful demonstrators who took to Ferguson's streets to protest Brown's death.
In that video, the chief expressed regret that it took investigating officers four hours to remove Brown's body from the street after he was shot dead.
"I'm truly sorry for the loss of your son. I'm also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street," he said in his video statement.
Investigators were doing "important work" trying to uncover the truth and collect evidence in those four hours, Jackson said, but "it was just too long, and I'm truly sorry for that."
"Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African-American community or the people (in the neighborhood where Brown was shot). They were simply trying to do their jobs," Jackson said.
Asked Thursday afternoon why the apology took so long, Jackson told CNN, "There's been so much going on, and every day there's a different challenge."
He said he's been wanting to apologize for "the time it took to remove Michael from the scene," and he feels better now that he's done it.
"This is something that's just been weighing on me. It's something that needed to be said. It should've been said a long time ago," he told CNN.