Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson on Thursday issued a video apology to the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was killed by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, while continuing to ignore residents' repeated calls for his resignation.
Jackson also walked briefly on Thursday night with protesters who have been marching against police brutality—and demanding Wilson's arrest—for more than six weeks. Despite his presence at the demonstration, however, several protesters were arrested in the early hours of Friday morning. Video footage of the march shows officers violently placing at least one woman in custody who had been marching side by side with Jackson before he was led away by a police escort.
— Patricia Bynes (@Patricialicious) September 26, 2014
Ferguson organizers, including a lawyer and a civil rights leader who had participated in the march, on Friday published an open letter reflecting on the recent events.
"The video did more harm than good," the letter stated. "The apology was 48 days too late, should have occurred in person, and should have been authentic and heartfelt. A 6 week old scripted video is unacceptable and disrespects the depth of pain in this community."
Police officers on Thursday night "kicked, grabbed, shoved, and hit peaceful protestors with their hands and batons," the letter continues. "Seven peaceful, lawful protestors were arrested," at least one of whom was denied medical treatment.
In his video, Jackson apologized to the Brown family for allowing their son's body to be left in the street for four hours—by claiming that it was a necessary investigation procedure.
"No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you're feeling," Jackson said. "I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I'm also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day."
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The video was produced by the Devin James Group, a public relations firm recently hired by the city of Ferguson. However, the group recently ran into its own troubling publicity, when it was revealed this week that its founder, Devin James, had served time in prison for reckless homicide after he was convicted of killing an unarmed man. James was fired by the city after the information became public, but protesters noted that officials were aware of his background before bringing him on board—and that their decision to fire him immediately demonstrated a continued "lack of integrity" on the part of city leaders.
"[T]he City of Ferguson knew about this previous conviction but hired him in an attempt to 'give Mr. James a second chance'," the open letter stated. "In a world where African American men are systematically placed into the criminal justice system and then denied employment based on past charges, we actually applaud the thought of city ’s original intent in hiring Mr. James... firing Mr. James once the news of his previous conviction came to public attention, despite knowing of this record before hiring him, is yet another example of the lack of integrity and sense of honor in City leadership."
"We can only suspect that the City of Ferguson planned to hide this information from the public—another cover-up and an intentional pattern of secrecy displayed by City leadership," they wrote.
Jackson's apology follows Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson's recent claim that protesters had injured police officers during a protest after a memorial to Michael Brown was burned down Tuesday. "This behavior will not be tolerated," Johnson told reporters at a press conference at the time. "If that means that officers will respond in riot gear, they will." The warning was a stark contrast from Johnson and the highway patrol's initial entry into the protests after the St. Louis County police force responded to peaceful actions in the early days of the protests with tanks and assault weapons, when the captain briefly became a symbol of calm and cooperation. He emphasized that police safety would take priority and said the burning of Brown's memorial was under investigation, but that he believed police were not responsible for the fire.
Jackson also told CNN that he had no plans to step down from his position, despite protesters calling for his resignation. He also said nothing about arresting Wilson, who has been on administrative leave since the shooting.
While protesters' demands have grown in scope since they began, Wilson's arrest has been their constant priority.
Jackson's apology video, released in full by the Associated Press, can be viewed below: