Former Police Chief Tom Jackson discusses his new book about media, law enforcement and Ferguson | St. Louis Public Radio

Former Police Chief Tom Jackson discusses his new book about media, law enforcement and Ferguson

Aug 10, 2017

Former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson recently published the book “Policing Ferguson, Policing America: What Really Happened—and What the Country Can Learn From It.”

The book is being promoted as the inside story of what happened in Ferguson after the police shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., but how much detail is actually exposed in the book? And what are Jackson’s feelings now, three years outside of the event that sparked a new wave of protest and activism in the St. Louis region and across the country.

Jackson joined Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air with host Don Marsh to discuss the book and his life, three years after the events in Ferguson.

“It helps to get my side of the story out, Ferguson’s side, and all the officers who were out there every day,” said Jackson about his lingering anger of how events in Ferguson were handled by politicians and the media. “… It was really heart-wrenching to see how quickly [politicians] were able to believe the worst and the way social media put out things without any filters at all, no verification.”

Jackson said he and his team were “never able to get in front of the story,” of Michael Brown’s shooting death by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson. Much of his book revolves around the “media optics” and coverage of the controversy and pressures he felt to provide information to the media.

Tom Jackson's "Policing Ferguson, Policing America."

Jackson also takes great exception to the Department of Justice investigation and report into the Ferguson Police Department.

“There’s absolutely nothing exculpatory in it; it is written as a prosecutor’s brief to prove a predetermined conclusion,” said Jackson. “That’s how I read it and how other people read it who are critical of it. A lot of it, they admitted privately, people they interviewed weren’t talking about the Ferguson Police Department.”

Jackson said that there wasn’t rage and outcry from the news media about the Ferguson Police Department prior to Michael Brown’s death.

“Never once did we receive criticism from [Lacy Clay] or other state representatives and senators who represented Ferguson,” Jackson said. “If there was policing as bad as this report reads, and it is hard to read that report, if policing were that bad, you’d think someone would have said something.”

Jackson said he attended all nine neighborhood association meetings each month, or sent a commander to go to listen to neighborhood complaints, as a way to know how well the police department was doing.

“The complaints were usually about kids in the park after dark, potholes, streetlights out,” Jackson said. “Anyone could come to those meetings. It was open. Members of the police department were at those meetings too. We also had a [city] newspaper that went to every resident of Ferguson, sharing how to contact your council members and city manager.”

As far as if Jackson feels responsibility for how events unfolded in Ferguson, he said “there’s a lot of responsibility to go around for the way things went down.”

“Understand one thing, people have to take personal responsibility for destruction they did,” Jackson continued. “You can be unhappy or angry about something, but that doesn’t mean you get to burn down businesses. As far as how the protests and riots were handled on a daily basis, that was an evolving process. … During months of the protests, every single officer had to undergo training. We took the responsibility very seriously. During the entire time of those protests, the police officers didn’t hurt any protestors.”

He said he had no resentment to Michael Brown Jr.’s family.

“They lost a child and that’s just tragic,” Jackson said. “I can’t imagine what that would have felt like.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.