Taking Off the Uniform in Ferguson

Speaking of Ferguson, here’s the latest sorrowful outrage (via Andy Cush of Gawker):

Yesterday, after reports that a mysterious fire had been set to a Michael Brown memorial, a photo allegedly depicting a Ferguson, Mo., police officer wearing an “I am Darren Wilson” bracelet, in support of the officer who shot and killed Brown, began to circulate on social media.

The photo was first published on the Instagram account MediaBlackOutUSA. In a press conference today, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson confirmed the bracelets’ existence and argued that they were a personal statement for the officers wearing them, BuzzFeed reports. “I think that was not a statement of law enforcement. I think wearing that was an individual statement,” he reportedly said.

According to St. Louis alderman Antonio French, Johnson also said he would “have a talk” with whatever agency the bracelet-wearing officers work for.

Yeah, that would be a good idea. To the extent that the duty of the police officers patrolling Ferguson is maintenance of peace and calm, visibly wearing a token of identification with an alleged murderer when dealing with people protesting the alleged murder is not a real smart tactic.

Beyond that, since when is making “individual statements” while on duty appropriate for police officers? Isn’t the whole idea of putting on a “uniform” to serve as disinterested protectors of the community? By proclaiming their solidarity with Darren Wilson even as the investigation of his behavior is underway, these officers are implicitly taking off the “uniform.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.