Missouri Highway Patrol to Take Over Ferguson Security

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon discussed the ongoing crisis in Ferguson and announced his plans to quell the unrest.

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Missouri Governor Jay Nixon keynoted a press conference about the ongoing crisis in Ferguson and outlined his plans to quell the violence on Thursday.

Nixon was quick to thank the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which he announced will be overseeing the security situation in Ferguson going forward. The governor added that he had spoke to President Obama as well as "faith and civic leaders" about the ongoing crisis, saying that "What's gone on here the last few days is not what Missouri is about.

He quickly ceded the podium to Ron Johnson from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The optics of Nixon, who is white and seemed to be leaning heavily on a prepared statement, stepping aside so that Johnson, who is black and is from the Ferguson area, could personally appeal for calm seemed a shrewd move. 

"I understand the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling," Johnson said, before vowing to work towards a peaceful resolution, promising to walk to the QuickTrip where the looting began later tonight. "It means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence," he said.

Nixon fielded questions about how the local police department's use of military weapons and shields could have escalated the conflict, but he deflected the question. "I'm not looking backwards, I'm looking forward," he said in response, and a few times after.

Nixon characterized the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown an "old wound" that had been reopened. "These are deep and existing problems not only in Missouri, but also America," he said, adding that he didn't know the shooter's name.

The Wire spoke to Captain Tim Hall of the Missouri State Highway Patrol to gather how the MSHP might approach the situation differently. "We've been there since the start in an assistant mode, assisting them with whatever they needed over there," he said. "At the onset it was for the major crowd control."

He added that the highway patrol now had "two SWAT teams" in Ferguson.

"I don't know if we're any better equipped [than the police department], but at that time they needed several people in a short period of time," he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.