ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is calling on area residents to remain calm once the grand jury decision on the Michael Brown shooting is released. He and members of the local unified command promise police will protect the community and the rights of citizens to exercise free speech, but violence will not be tolerated.
"Our dual pillars here are safety and speech. Anybody that comes here needs to know they are going to be safe while at the same time exercising those rights of speech," Gov. Nixon said. Nixon spoke Tuesday during a news conference at the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop C headquarters in Weldon Spring.
More than 1000 area police officers have received extra training on free speech rights of protestors in recent weeks. Law enforcement leaders including Highway Patrol Troop C Commander Ron Johnson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson have been reaching out to citizens, members of the clergy and youthful protestors to find common ground.
Governor Nixon said the community and the state must look to the future and the opportunity to solve long standing racial and low income issues that have gone unattended for decades. Nixon's new Public Safety Department Director, former St. Louis City Police Chief Dan Isom said the governor is committed to bringing people together and to establishing Missouri as a model for improving relations between police and the community.
St. Louis County Police Chief Belmar said he believes recent conversations with community members are helping to develop relationships that could lead to trust.
Protestors have complained that the wearing of riot gear by police antagonizes protestors. Belmar said in some circumstances it is necessary to protect his officers. "A riot helmet never killed anyone," he pointed out.
Governor Nixon indicated the Missouri National Guard has been part of the contingency planning with law enforcement, fire and EMS services but as of November 11 he had not called them to active duty. Guard members will be available if needed.