St. Louis County police spend $100K on riot gear for Ferguson ruling
ST. LOUIS — St. Louis County police said they have spent about $100,000 stocking up on riot gear and other items they may need if protests turn violent after prosecutors announce whether a Ferguson officer will face criminal charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
A state grand jury has been meeting since shortly after Brown, who was 18 and black, was shot and killed Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. Brown was unarmed, and some witnesses said he was trying to surrender. Wilson’s attorneys have repeatedly declined comment.
St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said the grand jury decision is expected in mid- to late November. His spokesman, Ed Magee, said Monday that the decision will come no earlier than Saturday, but the exact date is not known.
Businesses, schools and government offices have been gearing up for the announcement amid fear that protests could become violent if the grand jury decides not to recommend charging Wilson.
St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman said that since August, the county has spent $65,500 for new riot gear, such as helmets, shields and batons. The department has spent $35,000 to replenish the supply of items including pepper spray, smoke canisters and rubber bullets. Police faced criticism in the early days of the sometimes violent protests after the shooting for responding with riot equipment and armored vehicles.
County police Chief Jon Belmar has said police won’t impede peaceful dissent after the grand jury decision but will do what is necessary to protect the safety of protesters, police and the public.
Several school districts have asked the prosecutor’s office to make the announcement on a weekend, when classes are not in session. Many have kept parents advised of preparations.
“We’ve reached out to parents, first and foremost, to reassure them that student safety will always be our top priority,” said Jana Shortt, spokeswoman for the 11,300-student Ferguson-Florissant School District. She declined to offer specifics.