Five reasons the Ferguson police chief is in hot water

Reports: Ferguson police chief to resign
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Story highlights

  • Chief Thomas Jackson is expected to step down, according to officials
  • The chief and the mayor say the reports are not true
  • Jackson fell under intense scrutiny in the wake of the death of Michael Brown
  • He's apologized but said he has no plans to resign
The police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, has problems.
He's been under intense scrutiny ever since a white officer in his department fatally shot African-American teenager Michael Brown.
Now, government officials familiar with ongoing discussions are saying he is expected to step down as part of an effort by city officials to reform the Police Department.
Chief Thomas Jackson and Ferguson's mayor have denied the reports. There's no denying, however, that Jackson is in hot water.
Here's a look at five ways the police chief or his department have sparked outrage in the community:
1. Body in the street
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Ferguson back on edge
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After Brown was gunned down, his body lay in the street for four hours in a blazing Missouri sun. Police would later say that officials couldn't reach the area where the body lay because a crowd had gathered, making it too dangerous.
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said the community was "outraged by looking at this body all day long."
In an apology a month later, Jackson would apologize to Brown's family.
"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 during his video statement.
Investigators were doing "important work" trying to uncover the truth and collect evidence during those four hours, Jackson said, but "it was just too long, and I'm truly sorry for that."
2. Video of theft
As demonstrators clamored for more information about how Brown came to lie dead on a Ferguson street, the Police Department clamped down, releasing little information. Yet, six days after the shooting -- on the same day police released Officer Darren Wilson's name to the public -- police decided to release video of a robbery in which Brown was involved before he died.
To make matters more confusing, Jackson told reporters that Wilson didn't stop Brown because of the robbery, but because he was walking in the street.
This caused many to say "huh?"
The decision to release that store surveillance video, while the Police Department was keeping so many other details close to the vest, created consternation even among his colleagues. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson stated the robbery and shooting of Brown "are separate issues."
"I told (Chief Jackson) I think both of those being released today was not needed and was not the way that we needed to go," he told CNN. "Today is about taking care of this incident here, getting to those facts that are there, and Michael Brown and his family."
Jackson responded that news outlets had requested the video and Wilson's identification. He also said they needed to be released at the same time, but he didn't elaborate as to why.
Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump said the move was "a diversion, and it's an attempt to smear Michael's character."
3. Heavy-handed response to protests
When protesters hit the streets -- and violent elements among them looted and vandalized businesses -- it wasn't long before police brought out the heavy weaponry. Soon, images out of Ferguson included police in riot gear with shields and batons, automatic weapons, police dogs, armored vehicles and police firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds.
It's important to note that St. Louis County Police Department was in charge of tactical operations within hours of Brown's death, but it all unfolded in Ferguson, and that mattered to many onlookers.
Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, well-versed in unrest after leading recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina, questioned the logic of letting SWAT teams handle a civil disturbance.
"The tactics they are using, I don't know where they learned them from," he said. "It appears they may be making them up on the way, but this is escalating the situation."
4. Keep walking
A common refrain from police to protesters during the demonstrations was, "Keep moving."
Police were arresting or threatening to arrest anyone who stood still along the sidewalks, whether they were just stopping to rest or a reporter taking notes.
A federal judge ruled that they violated the Constitution when police told protesters they had to keep walking and that they couldn't stand still. In some cases, officers told protesters they couldn't stand for more than five seconds. In others, the protesters were told they were walking too slowly.
Jackson would have to include a statement in his video apology on how officers did not protect the people's freedom to assemble.
"The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry, I feel responsible and I'm sorry," the police chief said.
5. Lack of police diversity
Some of the complaints against Jackson stretch back further than Brown's shooting.
"People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general policing practices and from the lack of diversity on the Ferguson police force. These anecdotal accounts underscore the history of mistrust of law enforcement in Ferguson that has received a good deal of attention," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters after visiting the area.
The Justice Department is investigating the Police Department. It will look at the department's use of force, analyze stops, searches and arrests, and examine the treatment of people at Ferguson's city jail.
Many African-Americans in Ferguson say that they often found themselves subject to racial profiling, such as being pulled over for no obvious reason besides, they presumed, "DWB," or driving while black.
The city is a predominately black community with a mostly white police force. At the time of Brown's shooting, only three of the city's 53 officers were African-American.