Ferguson, Missouri, Police Chief Thomas Jackson apologized Thursday to the parents of Michael Brown, as well as to any peaceful protesters who feel he didn’t do “enough to protect their constitutional right to protest.”
Specifically, he apologized that it took investigating officers four hours to remove Brown’s body from the street after Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him last month.
“I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” he said during his video statement.
Investigators were doing “important work” trying to uncover the truth and collect evidence during those four hours, Jackson said, but “it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”
“Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African-American community or the people (in the neighborhood where Brown was shot). They were simply trying to do their jobs,” Jackson said.
Dressed casually in a red polo shirt, Jackson acknowledged that most of the protesters who took to the streets of Ferguson following the shooting did so peacefully, but there were others among them “who had a different agenda.”
Jackson singled out the peaceful protesters in his apology.
“The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry, I feel responsible and I’m sorry,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the incident has sparked a larger conversation about societal issues, and he expressed interest in being part of the discussion.
“Overnight I went from being a small-town police chief to being part of a conversation about racism, equality and the role of policing in that conversation. As chief of police, I want to be part of that conversation. I also want to be part of the solution,” he said.
He emphasized that “the city belongs to all of us” and conceded that Ferguson and the surrounding areas have “much work to do.”
“For any mistakes I’ve made, I take full responsibility. It’s an honor to serve the city of Ferguson and the people who live there. I look forward to working with you in the future to solve our problems, and once again, I deeply apologize to the Brown family,” he said.
The town was cast into the national spotlight when protests erupted following Wilson’s shooting of the 18-year-old Brown.
The demonstrations quickly devolved into looting, vandalism and violence but eventually calmed. The St. Louis suburb of 21,000 erupted again this week after one of three Brown memorials at the site of the shooting burned.
While many peaceful protesters took to the street Tuesday night, violent elements within the demonstration stoked chaos, attacking police with guns, rocks and bottles and vandalizing and looting businesses, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. One person threw a Molotov cocktail at a parking structure, and there was an attempt to set a gasoline fire at a custard shop, he said.
Two officers were injured, one of whom was struck by a rock below the eye, Johnson said.
While Johnson promised police would protect public safety as well as the freedoms of speech and expression, he warned that police would have no choice but to respond to any violent actions.
“If that means officers will respond in riot gear, they will,” he said Wednesday. “We cannot have nights like last night. We can’t have actions like last night that can result in injury or death. Those will not be tolerated.”
In recent days, the City Council has taken up measures to reform court procedures and the way the city handles certain fines.
The City Council is also presently considering a citizen review board that would work with the police department.