WASHINGTON -- The St. Louis County Police Department has stocked up on tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and plastic handcuffs in anticipation of massive protests in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, if a grand jury doesn't indict the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The jury is expected to reach its decision sometime in November.
Many protesters in Ferguson do not believe that Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted and contend that recent grand jury leaks are meant to prepare the public for that decision.
“It’s going to be a war because they’re not going to indict him,” one protester told The Huffington Post in October.
The St. Louis County Police earlier came under criticism for a heavy-handed response to peaceful daytime protests in the days after Brown was killed by Wilson on Aug. 9. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar stood by his handling of those protests, but later admitted that his officers had locked up peaceful demonstrators by mistake while they were enforcing an unconstitutional rule that required protesters and journalists to stay in constant motion.
A breakdown of the $172,000 that the police department has spent since August on gear for dealing with protesters, first reported by Jon Swaine of The Guardian, shows that the St. Louis County police have purchased "650 teargas grenades, smoke-and-gas grenades, smoke canisters and 'hornets nest' CS sting grenades, which shoot out dozens of rubber bullets and a powdered chemical agent upon detonation," at a cost of nearly $25,000. Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, provided a breakdown of the spending in an email to The Huffington Post.
The department has also spent $7,740 on 1,500 "sock rounds," or beanbag rounds, and $10,200 on 6,000 pepper balls rounds, which sting the eyes and nose when they hit at a protester. Roughly $77,000 went toward 235 helmets, 25 new batons and 60 pairs of shin guards. The county has purchased 2,000 plastic "flex" handcuffs, which cost just over a dollar each. In addition, the department has put aside $50,000 to repair damaged police vehicles, but that work won't begin "until unrest is over," according to the summary of the spending.
In late August, Justice Department officials had put Ferguson area police in contact with police chiefs in other cities who had experience dealing with large protests. Schellman said the St. Louis County Police Department has been coordinating with several different agencies to prepare for the public response to the grand jury's decision.
"Our commanders are in constant contact with members of several area departments planning for the grand jury’s return, regardless of the outcome. They have also been in contact with federal agencies as well," Schellman told The Huffington Post.