With the crisis between protesters and police forces in Ferguson, Mo., continuing to dominate the national headlines, Riley County commissioners took the opportunity Thursday morning to ask Riley County Police Department Director Brad Schoen if there are any lessons to be learned his officers can use.
While Schoen said he’s still waiting to see how things finally play out in Ferguson, he did say police in Ferguson did things he might not have initiated if he were in the St. Louis County police department’s boots.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about that,” Schoen said. “Things are going to take a while to shake out, but we’ve had a lot of discussions about it (within the department), and how they ended up in that situation in the first place.”
Chairman Bob Boyd was critical of the militarized appearance the St. Louis police displayed.
“I think the fact the Ferguson police had camouflage… I don’t think that was a very good decision,” Boyd said.
“Yeah, I’m sure they take what they could get (from the military), and it’s free, and that’s what they use,” he responded. “But you hit on a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart.”
He said the notion of police dressing like soldiers is a notion he has resisted for years.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” he said. “It’s not that there’s no need for any of that gear, because there is, but it’s kind of limited, and the frequency you have it in public view should be more limited.
“Fortunately, we don’t have those issues in Riley County.”
Schoen also spoke of the need to upgrade the county’s aging radio communication technology that all its emergency services share.
“It’s an aging system, but we’ve known that,” he said. “But it will be costly and something we need to carefully look at.”