On Thursday morning, Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson released a pre-recorded video apology for the conduct of officers in his department. The apology, which was released to CNN, was directed at both the family of African-American teenager Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and the protestors that flooded the town in recent weeks.
“The events of the past few weeks have sent shockwaves. Overnight, I went from being a small town police chief to being part of a conversation about racism, equality, and the role of policing in that conversation,” Jackson said. “I want to say this to the Brown family: no one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. 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,” he added, noting that the four-hour gap between when Brown was shot when his body was finally loaded from the street into into a police SUV. “It was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”
Jackson also directly addressed the protestors, who became a focus of worldwide attention after law enforcement officials responded to their demonstrations with overwhelming paramilitary-style tactics that many observers found shocking.
“To the people who were upset about what happening in Ferguson and came here to protest peacefully, unfortunately there were others who had a different agenda. I want to say to any peaceful protestor who did not feel that I did enough to protect their constitutional right to protest, I’m sorry. For the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone who was exercising that right feels upset and angry, I feel responsible and I’m sorry.”
He continued, “For any mistakes I’ve made, I take full responsibility.”
The crackdown drew such attention that even Ghanian President John Dramani Mahama references it during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) September 25, 2014
In the clip, Jackson appears out of uniform, wearing a a red polo shirt.
The video was put out by the Devin James Group, one of the two public relations firms recently hired by the city of Ferguson to help repair its image as a hotbed of racial strife.
Jackson’s apology came only a day after St. Louis County Police Department Chief Jon Belmar, whose agency took over the responsibility of handling the protests and is largely seen as responsible for implementing the most aggressive crowd-control tactics, gave his own retroactive assessment of what happened.
Speaking before the St. Louis County Police Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Belmar largely defended his department’s use of tear gas and pepper spray balls. “At the end of the day, we didn’t kill anyone because of our actions or seriously injure someone,” he argued.
However, Belmar did acknowledge that using police snipers looking at the assembled crowds through rife-mounted scopes might not have been the best way to reassure protestors that law enforcement officials were there to keep them safe. “The optics made a difference,” he admitted.
The online reaction to Jackson’s apology video, was swift and harshly negative.
A scripted apology is never heartfelt and sincere. #Ferguson isn’t going to fall for that.
— LittleTroubleMaker (@LowKey383) September 25, 2014
— ♚ Cheef Queef ♚ (@CheefQueef) September 25, 2014
#Ferguson Jackson’s apology too little, way too late. A resignation speech would have pleased most people.
— Jo Wallace (@Scampi13) September 25, 2014
— S. Thistlethwaite (@YesBiscuit) September 25, 2014
Think about everything that’s happened in #Ferguson so far: the problems stem from police who demonize a segment of the population there
— Sean Jordan (@seanjjordan) September 25, 2014
— Carl Nyberg (@CarlNyberg312) September 25, 2014
— Heaven Sent (@remhamf) September 25, 2014
— Tim Samii (@timsamii) September 25, 2014
Criticism of Jackson’s statement was nearly universal. Even people who believe Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown, was completely in the right were able to find fault.
#Ferguson is a joke!!!!!!! The police chief apologys for what……one of his cops doing there job!!!!
— Tommy Krauter (@Tommy_Krauter) September 25, 2014