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Ferguson Police Chief: ‘Race Relations A Top Priority’

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri told reporters Wednesday that the police officer who shot Michael Brown was taken to the emergency room with non-life-threatening injuries after he shot the 18-year-old and that the police department is working to improve race relations.

Jackson and the police department are under siege after a city officer shot Brown on Saturday. The officer claims that Brown assaulted him and tried to take his service weapon. Witnesses claim that Brown was surrendering when the officer shot him.

The shooting has sparked accusations that the shooting was racially-motivated. Brown is black, while the officer is reportedly white. And Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, is predominantly black. Its police force is nearly entirely white.

“Race relations is a top priority right now,” Jackson told reporters, adding that the department is “working with the Department of Justice to improve that.”

The department is working with the DOJ’s community relations division to address the issue, Jackson said.

“We understand the anger, we understand that people want answers, and we understand that we have a problem,” he told reporters.

Jackson provided a few details about Brown’s shooting, but not many, saying that the St. Louis County police department is conducting the investigation.

Jackson said that the officer who shot Brown was injured in the altercation preceding the shooting.

“The side of his face is swollen,” said Jackson, adding that the officer was taken to the emergency room with non-life-threatening injuries.

Jackson addressed other leads and shot down some misinformation. He said that no video of the shooting incident has been turned over to police. He also said that no curfew has been enacted, though it was widely reported Wednesday. Instead, the city’s mayor announced that it would prefer that protesters conduct their activities during daylight hours in order to ensure safety.

The department has also drawn criticism for its response to the protests and demonstrations that have been held since Brown’s death. Critics have pointed to the use of heavy military-grade gear that officers have worn while overseeing the demonstrations. Officers have also deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets.

“People are using bombs now,” said Jackson when asked why the department is using mine-resistant vehicles designed for war conditions.

Jackson also said that investigators will release 911 calls placed after the shooting “soon.” Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was walking with him before the shooting, was set to talk to investigators for the first time Wednesday.

Jackson also said that he did not have answers to questions of how many bullets were fired at Brown.

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