By Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
The U.S. Department of Justice ordered Ferguson police officers to stop wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while in uniform and on duty, according to a letter sent to Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Friday.
“There is no question that police departments can and should closely regulate officers’ professional appearance and behavior, particularly where, as here, the expressive accessory itself is exacerbating an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson,” wrote Christy Lopez, duty chief of the Special Litigation Section for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division.
“The bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus’ them mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.”
During the department’s interviews with community members on Wednesday night, Lopez said several Ferguson residents told DOJ representatives that police patrolling the protest sites in Ferguson on Tuesday were wearing the Darren Wilson wristbands. Residents said the wristbands “upset and agitated people.”
Some officers who were wearing the bracelets had black tape over their name plates, residents told the DOJ at the Wednesday community meeting.
“The practice of not wearing, or obscuring, name plates violates your own department’s policies, which we advised you earlier this week when we requested that you end the practice immediately,” Lopez wrote.
Some residents took pictures of the bracelets, but Lopez said she could not identify which law enforcement agency the officers wearing the wristbands were from. For this reason, Lopez said the department’s COPS office has spoken with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and State Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Ron Replogle about prohibiting the bracelets as well.
“As you are all too aware, the actions of other police officers while in Ferguson can impact your community as much as the actions of your own police officers,” she stated.
Click here to view letter that was sent to Ferguson Police Chief Jackson ordering his officers to stop wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets.