The U.S. Department of Justice asked Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department prohibit police officers from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty after they were sporting dark blue bracelets with white lettering on it stating, “I am Darren Wilson.”
Darren Wilson is a white policeman who sparked protests in the mostly black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people, after he fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager on August 9.
According to a letter released Friday by Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, residents contained photographs of officers, from unknown local agencies, wearing the bracelets.
Lopez said in the letter, “We are keenly aware of the importance of individual expression of opinions, even those that some find offensive, insensitive, or harmful.”
However, she added, “these bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.”
The letter also said that the Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson agreed to stop any of his officers from wearing the bracelets while in uniform and on duty, and to ensure that other local police agencies did the same.
This is at least the second letter from Lopez to Jackson this week. The first letter was issued on Tuesday urging Jackson to enforce department policies requiring officers to wear nametags as some officers were found placing black tape over their name plates, which is a violation of the police department’s rules.
“The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity,” the letter said.
Lopez referred to this as the professional demand of the police so that it does not exacerbate “an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson.”
Jackson released a video apologizing to the Brown family and peaceful protesters for how police handled the case, including the four hours of duration, Brown’s body till which it was lying on the middle of Canfield Drive after he was killed.
“Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African American community or the people of Canfield. They were simply trying to do their jobs,” Jackson said.
Wilson is not yet charged but the Justice Department probe along with a grand jury in St. Louis County has opened an investigation and is examining the case.
St. Louis County police couldn’t identify those wearing the bracelets neither their departments, said spokesman Brian Schellman.
Schellman also mentioned that his agency had not received complaints from protesters.
“We have not been made aware that our officers were wearing these bracelets,” he said.
“For me, the apology comes at a time when the trust and confidence in the chief has reached an all-time irreversible low,” said the Brown family attorney Anthony Gray. “It is nearly impossible to measure any reach of his apology at this time. Most observers, I believe, are locked into their opinions about the handling of the shooting of this unarmed teen. Dynamite, much less an apology, will do little, in my opinion, to move anyone off their opinions at this point. Despite this, we remain prayerful that peace, calm and justice will prevail.”