FERGUSON, MO – Police Chief Thomas Jackson — a central figure in the protests that flared in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of an unarmed black teen — says he has no plans to step down despite mounting calls that he must go.
Saying he “intends to see this thing through,” Jackson told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” on Thursday that he has been working with community leaders and others to create a dialogue in the community.
“Yes, I think I can see this through and come out on the other side with the community, the region and even the country a whole lot better,” he said.
Jackson’s statements come as the grand jury is expected any day to deliver a decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Law enforcement is girding itself for the possibility of more violent clashes like the ones that raged for days in the St. Louis suburb following the August 9 shooting.
Gov. Jay Nixon took authority from the Ferguson Police Department and gave it to state authorities in the days following Brown’s shooting.
Nixon said he put state troopers in charge because tension between law enforcement and demonstrators “appeared to be at a flash point.” This week, ahead of the anticipated grand jury announcement, Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri and called up National Guard troops to play a backup role.
Even so, Jackson said local police officers will be patrolling the streets.
“I’m running the response here locally,” he said.
That’s unlikely to sit well with a large number of critics, who say the only answer is for Jackson to go.
Criticism of the police chief has come from many directions — Brown’s family and friends, demonstrators, the U.S. Justice Department and members of the media — over how his department handled the aftermath of Brown’s shooting.
Ferguson Police and St. Louis County law enforcement were widely criticized for being too heavy-handed in dealing with protesters and in how they interacted with media. Reporters said they were targeted for arrest or physical attacks from law enforcement for simply trying to do their job.
CNN reported in October that Jackson was bowing to pressure to step down.
But since then, he has wavered multiple times and now wants to stay on longer, government sources familiar with the discussions told CNN on Thursday.
The plan continues to be, according to the sources, for Jackson to be encouraged to step down for the good of the police department and the community.
The conversations are part of a broader behind-the-scenes debate about how to tackle poor police relations within black communities in the St. Louis region.
Some officials say one issue the Brown shooting has exposed is one faced by a number of small police departments — less-experienced, lower-paid officers.
Jackson told CNN that the “pool of candidates is generally pretty small,” and that a goal of the police department has been to work to hire and retain qualified officers.
The police department currently has four black police officers, he said.
Evan Perez, Ashley Fantz and Dana Ford contributed to this report.
By Chelsea J. Carter