Jerry Lohr, a 14-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department, commanded the officer force in Ferguson after two police officers were shot last week amid continuing protests. The Los Angeles Times says “it was the beginning of a long night of confrontation and conciliation for Lohr as he struggled to bridge the suspicions between the police officers under his command, mostly white, and the predominantly black crowd of protesters.” His patience and resolve were tested as protesters shouted insults and TV cameras from around the world followed his every utterance.
With a blond buzz cut, laconic speech and a wad of Copenhagen tobacco wedged in his cheek, the Tennessee native is called “Officer Friendly” by locals. He set a deliberately low-key tone for what was going to be a long, chilly and nervous night. Lohr advised his officers to show up, as he did, without riot gear. Taking a position in front of a line of officers, Lohr showed them how to stand: Not at attention, but at ease. “Our strategy [is] to avoid confrontation,” he explained. “I’ve heard them say protesters are shooting at police — I don’t think that’s a fair statement,” he said. “That’s not to say there aren’t people out here tonight who don’t want to hurt us.”