Sometime soon, a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri will decide whether or not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing black teenager Michael Brown. Local officials are preparing for that moment by buying heaps of military-style riot gear.
Guardian reporter Jon Swaine, who has covered Brown's death and the subsequent Ferguson protests and police recriminations extensively, found that county police have spent lavishly since August on more "teargas, grenades, pepper balls and other civil disobedience equipment," just in case:
St Louis County police made the purchases amid concerns that hundreds of demonstrators will return to the streets if Darren Wilson, the officer who shot dead Michael Brown in August, is not indicted on criminal charges by a grand jury currently considering the case.
A breakdown of the department's spending since August on equipment intended for the policing of crowds and civil disobedience, which totals $172,669, was obtained by the Guardian from the county force.
That tally includes $25,000 for 650 tear gas grenades; "$18,000 on 1,500 'beanbag rounds' and 6,000 pepper balls"; $77,500 for police riot outfits; and $2,300 for plastic handcuffs.
It's not even clear whether the grand jury will decline to indict Wilson on any criminal charges, but the riot-gear purchases certainly suggest police think he may go free—and any ensuing protests may require a militarized response.
A police spokesman downplayed the spending spree, telling Swaine the agency hopes never "to use any" of the goods. But one of the line items Swaine obtained seemed to suggest the contrary:
In addition, an estimated $50,000 has been set aside by the department for repair work for damaged police vehicles. However, in a sign that further clashes are expected, they are in fact "not repairing any vehicles until unrest is over," a department inventory said.
[Photo credit: AP Images]