FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Bullets have been seen and heard at the latest Ferguson protests, and police insist that they have been the target of repeated attacks for more than a week.
SWAT units, which are heavily armed, have been widely criticized for their aggression toward peaceful protesters and journalists. Police sources working in Ferguson, including those who have been attacked by people in the crowd, said police have been hit with bottles, bricks, and even chunks of asphalt in the midst of sporadic gunfire.
Sources close to the Ferguson mission said conditions have been draining for police. Some cops worked 12 to 15 hour shifts without a day off, and there is a divide over the approach for crowd control. Some police wanted to stay aggressive in their response to demonstrators, others believed it is better to back off and isolate the smaller groups who were attacking police.
But one common current is evident—police believe they will be criticized no matter what they do.
“Early on in those first few days, there was almost no restraint, and that kind of set the tone for the week we’re in,” said one officer.
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said police were too aggressive during the first several days of protests. He said police were too aggressive with demonstrators and journalists who who were not causing trouble.
When command shifted to Missouri Highway Patrol under the command of Captain Ron Johnson, the tone was initially much different. Heavily armed military armed policing was de-emphasized, and, for a short time, less violence.
However, there were still incidents occurring and many bossiness felt like police had abandoned them, something that created a deeper divide in how some view the police, and how some police viewed their mission.
"You've got a group that's kind of entrenched now that's determined to fight this thing violently and you've got a lot of protesters caught in the middle," French said. "It's a bad situation."
Police sources in Ferguson told News 4 there is an open discussion about the possibility of officers wearing cameras, so they can document on video what they are seeing everyday during the most intense periods of rioting.