Better Coordination Needed - The Missourian: Editorials

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Better Coordination Needed

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Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 8:32 am

We are looking at it from afar but it seems that better police, Highway Patrol and National Guard coordination is needed when there are outbreaks of violence by protesters such as what is occurring in Ferguson. The last resort was for Gov. Jay Nixon to call out the National Guard.

The protest, as we all know, is over the police shooting of an unarmed black youth. There are conflicting stories of what happened. A third autopsy is being performed to try to determine more about the shooting. It is known the youth was shot more than once. The name of the officer has been released. The officer apparently was injured in the encounter with the youth, who earlier was a suspect in a stealing incident at a store. However, the officer apparently stopped the youth for walking in the middle of the street.

When the local police had problems dealing with the protesters, the governor called on the Highway Patrol to take over jurisdiction. When that didn’t work, the governor called in the National Guard.

We don’t know whether there is a plan of how to handle protests of this sort. We do know that law enforcement officers had a difficult time in trying to restore peace. From reports, the protesters came from the city of St. Louis, and elsewhere. It wasn’t just Ferguson residents who were protesting.

Officials have been blaming other officials for not stepping in and doing more. That type of criticism isn’t helping the situation. Ultimately, it is the state that has an obligation to handle uprisings if the local law enforcement officers can’t handle a protest that results in violence.

We think Gov. Nixon did the right thing in calling in the National Guard.

Ferguson has been damaged by what happened. It’s going to take a long time for the city to recover. A worry is what will happen when the results of the investigations are released. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation along with local officials. There will be two decisions about whether to charge the white officer who did the shooting.

The state’s case is being overseen by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, who is white. There is pressure on him to step aside, but in Missouri, “the buck stops with the head prosecutor” in each county, according to Peter Joy, a Washington University law professor who oversees the school’s Criminal Justice Clinic.

It is obvious difficult days remain for all officials involved in the case.

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