FERGUSON • Police trying to control the Ferguson protests and riots responded with an uncoordinated effort that sometimes violated free-speech rights, antagonized crowds with military-style tactics and shielded officers from accountability, the Justice Department says in a document obtained Monday by the Post-Dispatch.
“Vague and arbitrary” orders to keep protesters moving “violated citizens’ right to assembly and free speech, as determined by a U.S. federal court injunction,” according to a summary of a longer report scheduled for delivery this week to police brass in Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis and Missouri Highway Patrol.
They already have the summary, still subject to revision, that was obtained by the newspaper.
It suggests that last year’s unrest was aggravated by long-standing community animosity toward Ferguson police, and by a failure of commanders to provide more details to the public after an officer killed Michael Brown.
“Had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened,” according to the document.
It also says that use of dogs for crowd control incited fear and anger, and the practice ought to be prohibited. And it complains that tear gas was sometimes used without warning and on people in areas from which there was no safe retreat.
Moreover, it finds inconsistencies in the way police used force and made arrests.
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