Ferguson Protesters Propose 19 Rules of Engagement, Police Respond
CLAYTON, Mo.—As the grand jury decision in the case of Police Officer Darren Wilson nears, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said officials are ready for whatever may come.
“For the past 100 days…[we’ve] been engaged in many conversations,” said Slay at a press conference late Friday afternoon. He added that the Unified Command, which is the joint group of local, county, and state law enforcement officials that will be in charge after the grand jury decision is announced, has been preparing for likely protests.
“We believe it would be imprudent to not to plan for protests,” he said.
Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old boy, in early August. Brown’s death sparked months of protests and outrage from the St. Louis community, and many here have expressed their desire to see Wilson not only indicted over Brown’s death, but arrested.
Mayor Slay, who was joined at the press conference by Saint Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and a representative for Governor Jay Nixon, said that they do not know when the decision will come out, but they expect it soon.
Both Slay and Dooley said that a list of “proposed rules of engagement” presented by some community activists has been carefully considered by officials. Slay has consistently referred to the list as the “proposed rules of conduct,” insisting that the word engagement is too militant.
The final list, with noted stances of the Unified Command in brackets at the end of each rule, was publicly distributed in its final form on Friday. References by Unified Command to the “coalition” refers to community activists who engaged in dialogue with city, county, and law enforcement officials over the past 100 days.
The full list is as follows:
Proposed Rules of Engagement
- The first priority shall be preservation of human life. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Police will wear only the attire minimally required for their safety. (Specialized riot gear will be avoided except as a last resort).(Unified Command Agrees with first sentence)
- Crowd control equipment such as armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles and tear gas will not be used. (Unified Command believes public safety should help determine the best tools to keep people safe)
- Police or other government authorities will not interfere with the free flow of information through tactics such as limiting cell or internet access, interception of cell or other mobile conversations or unwarranted wiretaps. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Every attempt will be made to pinpoint arrests so that only individual lawbreakers will be arrested. (“Kettling” and mass arrests will not be used).(Unified Command Agrees with first sentence)
- Safe houses shall be considered sacred ground and only entered by police when called upon or if extremely necessary. (Unified Command believes subterfuge should not be used to enter, however, life safety and exigent circumstances are valid reasons)
- Media and Legal Observers shall not be considered participants in protests and shall be allowed to do their jobs freely. (Unified Command believes everyone should be treated as general public. (Parties acknowledge and agree that media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgement unless it obstructs the activity or safety of others or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties)
- Every attempt will be made to provide alternate routes or other means for non-involved persons to get to places of employment and meet other transportation necessities. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Strategically, police commanders will allow protests to take and occupy larger and more disruptive spaces than would normally be tolerated, and will allow occupation of those spaces for longer periods of time than would normally be tolerated. (Case by case basis)
- Clear standards of professionalism and sound community friendly-policing will be maintained and adhered to at all times. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Police will be instructed to be tolerant of more minor lawbreaking (such as thrown water bottles) when deciding whether to escalate the use of force. (Unified Command believes that actions that threaten public safety should be discouraged and arrests will be made with appropriate).
- Police rank and file will be instructed to provide every latitude to allow for free assembly and expression, treating protesters as citizens and not “enemy combatants.” (Unified Command Agrees)
- Excessive force and other forms of police misconduct will not be tolerated. (Unified Command agrees and encourages coalition to renounce violence and aggressive acts towards Police Officers and citizens).
- Intimidation and harassment of protesters will not be tolerated. This includes pretextual pedestrian or traffic stops, contacting of employers or family members, pre-emptive arrests or detention of “leaders,” publishing of private information and any other means of intimidation and harassment. (Unified Command believes that the Coalition should renounce harassment of police officers and release of personal information by protesters).
- Bond for arrestees will not be set above the levels which would be considered average over the last two years, and arrestees will not be held for periods longer than average lengths of time. Medical care will be liberally made available. Attorneys will be able to travel to and meet with clients without impediments. (Bond for arrestees will not be set at levels greater than are customary for like charges under ordinary circumstances; arrestees will not be held or confined for longer than is customary for like charges under ordinary circumstances; corrections officials will meet their obligations under law to provide medical care, and provide attorneys reasonable and reasonably timely access to their clients and information about their clients’ status.)
- Police will give protesters 48 hour advance notice before grand jury decision is announced. (Not under the purview of the Unified Command)
- Channels of communication will be established so that situations can be de-escalated if necessary. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Police will provide to the public information that makes clear the chain of command, who is making what decisions and the processes for deciding when the police response will be escalated. (Unified Command Agrees)
- Every attempt should be made to communicate with protesters to reach “common sense” agreements based on these protocols, both ahead of time and at the scene of protests. (Unified Command Agrees)
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) November 21, 2014