McCulloch stands behind show of force in Ferguson

ST. LOUIS - The show of force by police in Ferguson was not excessive. That's what St. Louis County's top prosecutor is saying the morning after a night of calm in Ferguson.

Robert McCulloch spoke to Kay Quinn this morning, about the violence in Ferguson, and about his strong feelings after St. Louis County's police chief was removed from heading up the security detail there.

McCulloch says St. Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, already had plans to scale back the security operation in Ferguson on Thursday, when in his words, Missouri governor Jay Nixon pops into town and takes over.

"The problem I had with the governor's action is the manner it came about," says McCulloch.

He's been St. Louis county prosecutor for 17 years, and he knows Missouri governor Jay Nixon well.

McCulloch is offended Nixon replaced County Police Chief Jon Belmar as the commander of the security detail in Ferguson without even telling Belmar first.

"That was what really annoyed me about the governor's action yesterday, aside from the fact that there was absolutely no legal authority for him to do that," says McCulloch.

He says Belmar and Johnson had been working closely on the security detail from the start of the violence, that that the two had already decided to scale back the operation Wednesday night, when the governor arrived.

"So to come into town and not to talk to, certainly didn't talk to me, certainly didn't talk to Chief Belmar, didn't bother to ask what is going on, what happened last night, where does it go from here, who's doing what, the sort of things you would expect somebody to ask," says McCulloch.

We also asked him about the militarization of the police presence.

Quinn: "Was the police response excessive in Ferguson?"

Prosecutor McCulloch: "No, I don't think it was excessive at all."

He says there's a big difference between a show of force and the use of force. He also said officers on the front lines did a professional job.

"The abuse that they took on that line was incredible," McCulloch said. "The show of force, by the time Thursday got around, was certainly above," McCulloch added, "even though it was a show of force, even that it was the same show of force that it was Monday morning. It was certainly more than was necessary by Wednesday." says McCulloch.

"But then again nobody knows what to expect until it happens, and when you see what happens, you say we don't need it, let's get it out of here," says McCulloch.

He says he's pleased the situation in Ferguson is calm again, and well aware of the national conversation about the police response. McCulloch adds the fact that no one was seriously hurt in the days and nights right after the Brown shooting proves the approach was appropriate.

"I know people for blocks around were affected by the tear gas," McCulloch said. "But no serious injuries to the protestors that were out there, to law enforcement to residents in the area, and I think that's something that kind of gets lost in the shuffle here."

"But the use of force, while they were doing it under the circumstances, I don't think was excessive," says McCulloch.

As for the release of the name of the Ferguson officer involved in Mike Brown shooting, McCulloch said there are legitimate arguments for both releasing and withholding it.

He says he'd rather the officer's name be withheld, but he understands the decision to release it.


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