When Missouri’s governor announced that a new person would be brought in to take over the security operations in Ferguson, the community and national observers alike breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed as if no one—or at least not anyone competent and in control—was managing the uprising over the shooting of Michael Brown.
When Capt. Ronald S. Johnson came in front of the bright lights on Thursday evening to give his first press conference, critics of the investigation were once again assuaged. Johnson is an African-American man, unlike 94 percent of Ferguson’s police force. Also, he has managerial experience in law enforcement: He’s the captain of a sizable portion of Missouri’s Highway Patrol unit.
Plus, Johnson already feels a certain way about how Ferguson’s law enforcement has conducted itself in response to the protesting.
Here are some notable things about Johnson, culled from a few online sources, but primarily from this Washington Post report.
1. He’s sympathetic to the concerns of critics.
It’s likely that Johnson’s identity, both as an African American and as a man, will influence his ability to empathize with those hurting in Ferguson, particularly the way in which protesters and journalists have been treated. That he might be able to relate to Michael Brown—the unarmed African-American victim at the center of this uprising—even in the slightest way, is also noteworthy.
During a brief press conference on Thursday, Johnson assured the community that he’s heard their concerns and he understands “the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling.” He’s also planning to implement a “different approach,” he told reporters, one that conveys the message that law enforcement and the citizens of Ferguson are “in this together.”
2. He put a stop to the tear gas used against protesters.
Johnson told police officers “to remove their gas masks” and marched alongside protesters on Thursday. “I’ve assigned all police assigned to this detail to take their gas masks off,” he said.
3. He’s an OG in the game.
Johnson has been with Missouri’s Highway Patrol team for 27 years and is currently the captain of Troop C—an area that encompasses 11 counties in St. Louis.
4. He’s frat.
Although it hasn't been officially confirmed, there are reports that Johnson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity—one of the historically black “Divine 9” Greek organizations in the U.S., initiated in 1983.
5. He has a degree in criminal justice.
Johnson is an alum of Florissant Valley Community College in Ferguson.
6. He’s a father.
Not only does Johnson know what it’s like to be a young black man in America, but he also knows what it’s like to be a father of black children. He’s got two of his own—they’re both in their 20s. He might be sensitive to how black teenagers are sometimes perceived and treated by law enforcement.
7. He has a personal stake in this.
Aside from being black and a father and once a young black man in America (he’s in his early 50s), Johnson is from Ferguson and has a stake in seeing that his hometown does the right thing and puts a stop to the injustices and mayhem that have engulfed his community.
“It means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence,” he told reporters on Thursday.
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