Thursday brought greater calm to the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon requested St. Louis County Police stand down from their role in maintaining safety during the ongoing protests over Saturday’s shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.
Nixon ordered the Missouri Highway Patrol to take over the responsibility of crowd control, headed by Captain Ronald S. Johnson (shown), a Ferguson native. The change in the environment under Johnson’s direction was stunning and almost immediate, after the previous four nights, when the protests turned violent and were met by a heavy-handed police response with SWAT teams, tear gas, sniper posts, and armored vehicles.
Not only did Johnson march with the protesters, but he vowed to not blockade the street, to set up a media staging center, and to ensure that residents’ rights to assemble and protest were not infringed upon. Officers working crowd control, he said, have been told they must take off their gas masks.
“I’m not afraid to be in this crowd,” Johnson told the Post.
Johnson, who is black, joined the Highway Patrol in 1987. He has been with the patrol for 26 years, and served for the last 12 as commanding officer of the patrol’s Troop C, which covers the 11-county St. Louis region, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson spoke favorably of Johnson being asked to handle the Ferguson protests, telling the Post-Dispatch:
I’ve worked with him for many years, even before I was chief. You couldn’t have a better partner for the region. He’s smart, he’s professional, he comes from the area....
[He] understands urban policing and the challenges we have. He’s low-profile, but not afraid to take on the tough jobs.
At a press conference this morning, Johnson answered questions and gave some of his own comments on the situation in Ferguson.
Click here to read the entire article.
Photo of Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson at a press conference: AP Images