Last night in #Ferguson, a freelance photographer and I were headed down W Florissant Avenue as we walked past a squad car. The car was a holdout. Minutes before, the intersection that the car sat adjacent (W Florissant & Solway Ave) was blocked off and clusters of police vehicles dotted the area, but as moments passed they were slowly dispersing and re-opening the street.
As we walked by, one of the officers shouted "did you get the story?" To clarify, he was being patronizing. The photographer and I had passed by a few minutes prior. We showed him our credentials and explained we were just scoping out the area.
"I think I got a couple of good shots," said the photographer.
"We got some shots too." Said the officer.
In the interest of #journalism, I want to point out that I don't have a recording of this exchange, and these are probably not the exact words that were said. But the sentiment remains the same.
Meanwhile in St. Charles I spoke with a SWAT commander who, when asked about potential threats on a following night said: "We're game any night of the week." He was grinning. Meanwhile behind him ~40 police vehicles including one armored truck and a mobile command unit sat parked in the Bass Pro parking lot. Dozens of officers were standing and sitting on the scene, waiting for what would happen next.
What happened next was this: a drive-by shooting took place in Ferguson near where peaceful demonstrations had taken place all day. A young man drew a handgun on a police officer and got shot. The SWAT commander came back over to let us know they were all heading back to Ferguson. I don't know if he maintained his demeanor upon arrival at the scene, but I thought I saw him and some of his officers standing around in the Ferguson staging area, which is situated in a Target parking lot.
The officers I spoke with last night, if anything, seemed bored. They made jokes. The SWAT commander called either Wiz Kalifah or Jeezy a dumbass, in reference to reports that performers at the Verizon Wirless Amphitheater were encouraging concertgoers to riot in St. Charles. His exact phrasing was "that rap dumbass."
So that's it. I just wanted to sketch out the personalities who are wearing riot gear, riding around in armored cars, pointing sniper rifles at crowds, deploying tear gas, and arresting journalists. Maybe it's a good thing that they seem so at ease, or maybe that contributes to an atmosphere where on one side you have serious protestors with a grave cause, and on the other you have kids on Christmas morning playing cops and robbers with their shiny new riot gear.