A St. Louis police officer will face discipline for wearing a patch on his uniform seemingly in support of former Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, during a downtown protest Friday.
An officer with the last name of Coats was seen wearing an arm patch that read "Wilson" during a protest against the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson for August's fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the officer's actions violated department policy. According to its rule on "Certain Insignia Prohibited," only approved and sanctioned pins, insignias or awards can be worn on a uniform and employees are barred from wearing "any insignia, badges, buttons or patches which are not issued by the Department."
"While I understand that everybody has a right to the First Amendment, when you're a police officer and you're working in the city of St. Louis and in our community, I expect you to be professional," Dotson said. "I expect you to leave those views and opinions on the sidelines while you do your job, and in this case, the officer didn't, which is a clear violation of our department policies and rules."
Dotson, who recently faced criticism at a neighborhood meeting in Tower Grove South for not taking complaints of officer wrong-doing seriously, said he hopes quick action against the officer maintains community trust.
"Normally I say that we're going to conduct an investigation into the situation. Hey, I want to be more clear: this officer will be disciplined for his actions today," Dotson said.
Many protesters, like Juliette Jacobs, were upset by the officer's actions.
"A police officer who is supposed to protect and serve the people is wearing a badge supporting a person who killed somebody, a murderer - that's a serious problem," she said.
Added demonstrator Marcellus Buckly: "Honestly, it just shows me whose side he's on. If he got a uniform, it kind of shows what side you're on, period."
Dotson said the department has been working on building "community-oriented type bridges that we really, really need to have in order to keep our community safe."
In September, the Department of Justice rebuked the Ferguson police department after some of its officers were seen wearing "I am Darren Wilson" bracelets, and DOJ officials said Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson agreed to ban them. Later, the DOJ said St. Louis County Police and Missouri Highway Patrol officials said they would also ban the bracelets.