Anyone watching the protests in Ferguson last summer understood exactly why they escalated and who escalated them, but it's still good to see the DOJ confirm those reports.
A draft report from the DOJ places responsibility for escalation at the feet of the police, with specific examples of where they erred.
The report found that having St. Louis County police snipers perch on top of tactical vehicles and point their weapons at crowds of peaceful protesters in broad daylight was "inappropriate" and "served only to exacerbate tensions between the protesters and the police." Deploying armored vehicles when there was no "danger or peril to citizens or officers" -- as law enforcement was found to have done at times -- was seen by community members as an attempt to intimidate and threaten.
And who could blame them? It's not every day assault weapons and police in full body armor are engaged against unarmed citizens protesting the shooting of an unarmed citizen.
Deploying dogs was an unwise idea, the report judged, as was firing tear gas without warning on protesters who had nowhere to go. The report also frowned on the practice of violating the constitutional rights of protesters by creating a "vague and arbitrary" rule whereby demonstrators were ordered to "keep moving" and told they couldn't stand still for more than five seconds at a time.
Additionally, the report found that policies made it "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints" about officer conduct, and that there was a "lack of confidence in the complaint process" that likely deterred citizens from even bothering to try. Both the Ferguson Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported receiving zero citizen complaints about officer conduct during the time frame examined, while the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reported receiving just one complaint each about officer conduct during the 17 days of unrest.
There's more. Criticism about communications and coordination between the different police agencies, a lack of understanding about social media, and lack of experience dealing with the entire situation took a toll on police and the community alike.