Local Police Braced for Grand Jury Verdict

A Brentwood patrol officer watches traffic entering The Promenade at Brentwood shopping center just north of the Target store this week. Police Chief Dan Fitzgerald said he will put several more officers on patrol when the grand jury decision is announced in the Michael Brown case. He said that if there’s civil unrest here, it might take place near retail areas. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Officers receive training, helmets and shields just in case

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

With the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case expected to be announced this month, the Brentwood Police Department says it is ready for any civil unrest that may occur here once the announcement is made. Brentwood officers have received training on how to deal with protesters and the BPD has purchased riot helmets and shields in case they’re needed.

The grand jury has been meeting just two miles away at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton. Protest organizers have called for a large demonstration there if criminal charges are not brought against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Brown. Government and law enforcement officials in the St. Louis region have expressed concern that the announcement will lead to civil unrest similar to the burning and looting that accompanied the Ferguson protests in August.

The grand jury in the Brown case has been meeting at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton. News media from throughout the U.S. awaits the decision. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Timing of grand jury decision

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has said that the grand jury decision will be made in mid- to late November and that once a decision has been reached, his office will inform the public and the media ahead of time. Brentwood Police Chief Dan Fitzgerald said St. Louis County police will notify him before the grand jury’s announcement.

“I think it’s going to be soon, in the next week or so,” Fitzgerald said on Monday. “They told us they’ll give us as much advanced notice as they can but they’re not promising any time frame. It could be hours, it could be a day; we’re not sure. I don’t know that we’ll get that much of a heads-up ahead of the general public.”

Increasing patrol officers here, helping Clayton

Brentwood Police Chief Dan Fitzgerald in a photo taken this past summer. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Fitzgerald said he normally has five of his 27 officers on patrol at once. When the announcement is made, “We’ll have a few more officers on the street than we normally do,” he said. “I think all the communities around here are doing the same thing — they’re upping their manpower a little bit just to see what’s going to happen.”

If trouble arises in Brentwood, Fitzgerald said it will most likely occur in retail shopping areas.

Brentwood officers might be sent to Clayton if they’re needed in the wake of the grand jury decision.

“Our number one concern is right here,” said Fitzgerald. “We want to make sure everything in Brentwood is under control. But we’ll help neighboring jurisdictions if they need it. We may send some guys over to Clayton.”

Fitzgerald said six to eight BPD officers were sent to Ferguson to help with crowd control in the days following Brown’s death on Aug. 9. None of them made any arrests.

“We sent one or two officers a night,” he said. “We were pretty much in the background, in helping mode.”

Brentwood police headquarters are in the Hanley Industrial Court. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Special training

Since then, a half dozen of Brentwood’s patrol officers attended a one-day training session on how to effectively police demonstrations. It was organized by officers from Clayton and St. Louis County.

“It was helpful for our officers to get an idea of things to look for, how to act, what they might be up against,” said Fitzgerald. “They came back and gave that info to the ones who didn’t go. A lot of it was a discussion about decorum — how to handle yourself and handle situations that might be thrown at you. Civil unrest is not the everyday type of stuff that police officers have to deal with. There are [special] ways of handling it and you have to have a thicker skin.”

New equipment

To guard against the possibility of large-scale unrest, the BPD since August has purchased new riot helmets and shields.

“We updated some of our stuff,” said Fitzgerald. “We had some old riot helmets that hadn’t been out of the box in eons so it was time to update. None of us have even had to think about using stuff like that for years.”

The City of Brentwood’s website no longer includes an employee directory with contact information on individuals.

City website takes low profile

After learning that a group of activist computer hackers had targeted Ferguson and St. Louis County government and law enforcement officials, the City of Brentwood removed most of the information from the staff directory on its website. The names, job titles and contact information of individuals have been replaced with a central phone number, fax and street address for each department.

“We got rid of our contact list in August after what happened to the St. Louis County’s website,” said Fitzgerald. “All their infrastructure was compromised. There were officers in Ferguson and in St. Louis County who had had their finances compromised. That’s why we’re trying to keep a low profile.”

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