Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) announced Thursday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol would take over the role of securing areas of Ferguson that have erupted in protests and violence against police over the last few nights.
Those events were prompted by the weekend shooting of an 18-year old black student by an unnamed white police officer.
Nixon said Captain Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol would lead the effort. Johnson, who is black, spoke briefly with Nixon and said he grew up in Ferguson, and wants to break the cycle of violence seen over the last few days.
When asked what he would do differently, Johnson said, “We are going to have a different approach, and have the approach that we’re in this together.”
Nixon’s decision to take control away from local police came after a press conference to be held by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson was taken over by members of the New Black Panther Party.
Nixon said it was also made after several discussions with people in the town, who said they want to be able to feel safe in their community.
“They told me that they want a community that’s healthy and happy and safe,” Nixon said. “They want their streets to be free from intimidation and fear. They told me they want peace, they want the truth, and they wanted to be treated with respect.”
“Today, my message to the people of Ferguson is that these voices have been heard,” he added.
One of the issues concerning residents — as well as members of Congress and the Obama administration — is the use of military-style equipment to control protestors. When asked whether the equipment being used to control protesters would change Thursday night, Nixon said operational teams were working on trying to bring a different “tone” to police efforts.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder said his department has warned Missouri officials about using military-style technology and tactics against civilians.
Nixon declined to offer specifics about what would change, and said only people would see a “different picture.”
Nixon was also asked about whether police would release the name of the officer who shot 18-year old Michael Brown. When pressed on whether the law requires the release of that name, Nixon said, “I don’t want to get into a debate what the law is or what the law is not.”
Nixon said he did not know the name of the officer. He did say, however, that the name of the officer should be released at some point, and that steps would likely be taken to protect that officer from violence.