Police trying to control last summer’s protests and riots in Ferguson, Mo., responded with an uncoordinated effort that sometimes violated free-speech rights, antagonized crowds with military-style tactics and shielded officers from accountability, says a U. S. Justice Department review, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “Vague and arbitrary” orders to keep protesters moving “violated citizens' right to assembly and free speech, as determined by a …federal court injunction,” says a report set for delivery this week to police brass in Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis and Missouri Highway Patrol.
The report, still subject to revision, suggests that the 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,” says the report. It says 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. It finds inconsistencies in the way police used force and made arrests. The full report is expected to contain about 45 “findings,” with recommendations for improvement on each point.