How Putting a Ferguson Native In Charge Calmed the City's Nerves

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

After days of unrest in Ferguson, following the police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon finally stepped in and promised a "change in tone" under new leadership. By replacing the St. Louis County Police Department with the Missouri State Highway Patrol — led by Capt. Ron Johnson — he seems to have delivered on that promise. 

Johnson is both a Ferguson native and, like the majority of the city's population, black. St. Louis Public Radio reports that Johnson marched with protesters to the burned and looted QuikTrip on Thursday and said, "I am a black man with black sons." Compare that to images of the mostly white officers of the St. Louis County police in heavily armored camo gear. 

"This is my community, these are my friends, this is my family, and I’m making new friends tonight," Johnson said. "We're all a part of this together." According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Johnson has been part of the Highway Patrol since 1987. He currently leads 147 uniformed officers and 157 civilian employees in Troop C, covering the 11 counties in the St. Louis area. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told the Post-Dispatch he'd worked with Johnson "for many years, even before I was chief ...You couldn’t have a better partner for the region. He’s smart, he’s professional, he comes from the area."

And the leadership change hasn't just been about improved press — with Johnson there's been a complete change in the way the protests have been handled. "You can stay out here all night," he said, according to SLPR. "The only thing that I ask is that you pull back a little bit so that our family members, and our friends can travel up and down West Florissant. They can come by, yell out the window, blow their horn and give you support, but you've got to move back on the sidewalk."

As The Washington Post noted, Johnson also promised not to blockade streets, to set up a media staging center, and to let people protest at any time of day. All the military-grade gear was gone. One resident told The New York Times the Thursday night protests were calmer “because they’re not tear gassing us tonight.”

NEWSLETTER

Get daily news from Route Fifty

Top stories on how innovation is driving smarter government across the country.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.