COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Police have been undergoing training on responding to civil unrest and “planning for the worst” in case protests erupt following a grand jury’s decision on whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, a top state law officer said Friday.
Col. Ron Replogle, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said his officers have been meeting with police in the St. Louis area to both review their response to the protests and violence that followed the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown and to be better prepared if Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson is not indicted.
Numerous protests, including some that devolved into looting and violence, broke out in the days after Wilson shot Brown, who was unarmed during their confrontation in a street in Ferguson. Brown’s family, civil rights activists and others have been pushing for criminal charges against Wilson.
A St. Louis County grand jury has been hearing testimony, but a decision is at least several more weeks away. Replogle said he expects some advance notice before the grand jury’s decision is announced.
“We’re certainly planning for the worst and praying for the best,” Replogle said during a panel discussion about media coverage of the Ferguson shooting and protests. The event was hosted by the Missouri Press Association.
Following the initial unrest after the shooting, the Highway Patrol was put in charge of security in Ferguson. That directive has since ended, but Replogle said the patrol remains part of a unified law enforcement effort.
Replogle later told The Associated Press that troopers are receiving training on dealing with civil unrest and the patrol has purchased more shields and equipment for officers. He said police across the St. Louis area are preparing in case large protests or violence breaks out following the grand jury’s announcement. He said the patrol, which has 1,240 troopers statewide, will be limiting trooper vacations around the time of a potential grand jury decision and has postponed administrative meetings until December.
“We have to be prepared maybe to respond anywhere in the state,” Replogle said.
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