A look at who's in charge of Ferguson security

AP News
Posted: Aug 14, 2014 7:55 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Racial unrest has gripped the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson since Saturday, when 18-year-old Michael Brown — black and unarmed — was shot to death by a white police officer in the city where two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black and all but three officers on the police force are white. Police response to protests since then has drawn strong criticism, and Missouri's governor on Thursday announced the state would take over overseeing the security. Here is a look at some of the key players in the investigation and the security in the city:

POLICE RESPONSE: Heavily equipped tactical police from four regional agencies — St. Louis County, St. Louis city, St. Charles County and the Missouri State Highway Patrol — had been the staple of controlling demonstrators and warding off potential rioters and looters. Often in riot gear while carrying batons and shields and backed up by armored vehicles, each unit had a commander who would assess the situation and decide whether it merits use of force, including volleys of tear gas, smoke bombs or rubber bullets, according to St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar has said he believes his officers have responded with "an incredible amount of restraint" while being pelted with rocks and bottles and shot at.

THE FIRESTORM: Police have been called into question by President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and others for using militaristic tactics. Police have insisted they were responding to disperse protesters after some threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers, on one night leaving a St. Louis County officer with a broken ankle from a thrown brick, Schellman said.

WHAT'S CHANGING: The State Highway Patrol has taken over Ferguson's security supervision, with Capt. Ron Johnson — a black Ferguson native — in charge. Local police will still be involved in providing security, but under state supervision. Johnson says he's taking a different approach to the task and was on the street Thursday evening talking to protesters. Nixon, who has faced criticism for not stepping in earlier, said he believes a "softer front" could help diffuse the situation.

FERGUSON'S POLICE CHIEF: Chief Thomas Jackson has been the public face of the city's administration and law enforcement since Brown's death. He has pressed for calm amid the unrest. He's heard from angry critics and protesters who have confronted him at rallies, marches and news conferences. He has faced criticism for not releasing the name of the officer who shot Brown and for not discussing circumstances surrounding the teen's death. Jackson has refused to release the officer's name, citing safety concerns. And he says it's up to St. Louis County police to sort out the shooting.

THE INVESTIGATION: Jackson ceded the investigation of Brown's death to the St. Louis County police force headed by Belmar. Named the county's police chief late last year, the 50-year-old Belmar is a certified bomb technician who has been with the department for nearly three decades. Jackson has said he believes it may take two weeks to complete that investigation because of the number of witnesses who have come forward. St. Louis County's prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, said he's not bound by any timeline in presenting the case to a grand jury for a determination of whether charges are warranted.

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The FBI is undertaking an investigation parallel to the criminal one by St. Louis County police, sorting out whether anything about Brown's death constitutes a violation of his civil rights. Also, Missouri officials have accepted an offer from the Justice Department to help with crowd control and public safety, according to Holder.

BROWN'S FAMILY: Brown's parents have urged for calm in the wake of their son's death and asked that the public share any information and videos they might have related to the shooting. The family's attorney is Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder. Crump has said Brown "was executed in broad daylight."