The Justice Department on Friday ordered Ferguson, Mo., police officers to stop wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets in support of the white officer who last month fatally shot an unarmed black teen, sparking weeks of protests, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“These bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists,” says a letter written by Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The letter was dated Friday. Ferguson, a mostly African-American suburb of St. Louis, has a mostly white police department.
Lopez writes that she understands that Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has agreed to prohibit officers from wearing the bracelets while in uniform and on duty and to ensure that other officers from other local agencies also observe the prohibition.
The letter comes after residents told a Department of Justice official about the bracelets this week at a community meeting. They complained that officers wore the bracelets Tuesday while patrolling protests over Wilson’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug 9. Protesters have been demanding Wilson’s arrest.
Lopez also tells the chief in the letter written Friday to ensure that officers follow department policy and wear name tags. Residents said officers were patrolling without them or with their names covered with black tape, according to the letter.
“Allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability,” Lopez tells Jackson in a separate letter, written Tuesday. That letter was also released Friday. “The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.”
The Justice Department has been investigating the shooting, and a grand jury is deliberating about whether to charge Wilson.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.