Current Events: U.S./Ferguson police


QUESTION: Following the situation in Ferguson, I'm confused about the composition of the police force. I'm led to believe that the local police have been replaced by the state police. Is that correct? Are the local police completely gone from the scene? Can you clarify?

ANSWER: Many different local agencies can be a lead agency in such cases. It can be the city police, county police, state police, or national guard depending on the circumstances.

If memory serves me correctly, the Governor ordered the State Police to be the lead agency this past week, and it was the head of that agency that allowed the rioters to loot on Tuesday (I think it was Tuesday). He thought that confronting the looters would lerad to more violence,

In any case, the decisions are made by the lead agency. The city police are present, but they follow the orders of the State Police commanders in this instance.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks very much, Dennis.

I forgot about the National Guard (now withdrawn). Is that just another agency under the lead of the state police?

And even though I said state police, I understand the captain in charge is with the highway patrol. Is the highway patrol the lead agency?

It all depends what the higher-ups say. The city police dept is in charge of the city, unless they ask for help or a larger jurisdiction says they can't handle it. It could be the county, the State Police, or the National Guard.

In this case, the Governor sent the National Guard in, but said the State Police can continue to make decisions. They wanted a black face on TV giving directions, and that captain may have been from the area. BTW, I called them State police because that is what they are called in my State. In Missouri they may be called the Highway Patrol.

The Governor could have said General so-and-so of the National guard will take command, and that would have been that. He just let the Highway Patrol guy take the lead. He also let him take the lead so if the whole thing went to hell in a hand basket the Gov. could then say, "those weren't my orders. That's the Highway Patrol."

In Missouri the National Guard were under control of the Highway Patrol, but it could easily have been the other way around.

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