The Department of Justice released a draft report Wednesday blaming Ferguson, Missouri police officers for escalating the riots that erupted in the city last year after the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.
The DoJ cited the use of military style equipment -- assault rifles, armored trucks, snipers -- and more specifically its misuse, as unjustified. The report stated that tear gas was fired inappropriately and that armored vehicles and snipers were unwarranted to control the destructive rioters -- many of whom were busy setting fires or firing guns into the crowds.
The New York Times obtained a copy of the draft and posted a few of the quotes online:
"While a tactical response was warranted at times during the Ferguson incident because of threats to public safety, the highly elevated initial response of tactical units limited options for a measured, strategic approach," according to a copy of the report’s findings, which was obtained by The New York Times. Using such tactical equipment during the day, the report said, “was not justified and served to escalate rather than de-escalate the overall situation.”
Because so many officers were brought in across multiple departments, the DoJ believes that a communication breakdown led some officers to act on their own because there were no clear orders, resulting in officers relying on "self deployment."
"That lack of consistency in policy led to unclear arrest decisions, ambiguous authority on tactical orders and a confusing citizen complaint process."
In the most eyebrow-raising part of the report, federal officials fault the Ferguson police for asking the crowd to simply move along without giving the rioters a "clear alternative" to their disruptive and destructive activities:
"The overall effect was to discourage protesters from exercising their First Amendment rights. Protesters had to keep moving but were provided no clear alternative."