The massive divide created in a small Missouri community raises and rehashes serious questions pondered for generations:
Is racism in the U.S. still alive? And if so, will prejudice ever end?
Do police officers and other local law enforcers wield too much power?
How should people react in the aftermath of a national travesty? If they choose to protest, and peacefully stand up for civil rights, should they fear being attacked, arrested or even killed?
Such lingering questions won’t be answered anytime soon — maybe never.
But the death of Michael Brown — an unarmed, 18-year-old black man fatally shot by a white police officer more than a week ago — definitely evokes plenty of emotions, including from local law enforcers watching the chaos unfold in Ferguson, Mo.
The Register posed two questions about this issue to police chiefs and sheriffs serving in Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky counties:
1. What is your gut reaction to the violence, riots and fallout from Brown’s death?
2. What would you recommend be done in Ferguson at this point?
Among those responding: Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick, Norwalk police Chief Dave Light, Sandusky police Chief John Orzech and Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.
Among those not responding: Port Clinton police Chief Rob Hickman, Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard, Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer and Fremont police Chief Tim Wiersma.
1. I want to get all the facts first. But, certainly from what I did see, I would sure want to look at the amount of the training the officers have had. Any type of use of force — from hands-on to pepper spray to Tasers or anything with deadly force — you have to train and train and train, and then train some more.
2. They are going to need some outside intervention. Things have escalated to where it’s so out of control. You are going to need community members come out and sit down with the law enforcement community. You need a citizens review board to step in, be neutral, unbiased and sit down with people from both sides and try to analyze things from the beginning to the end to see what happened. You have to restore peace at this point and calm things down. It’s going to take several meetings, but you have to try to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.
1. I’m saddened by it. This is not what our country is about.
2. That’s really difficult. I don’t know if I could tell you since I’m not there and am not in direct contact with the people who are there. It’s so easy to sit back and say what needs to be done. People have come (into Ferguson) but it hasn’t changed much. We don’t have all the information. We don’t have the answers. I can’t sit here and tell you what needs to be done.
1. It’s a troubling situation for everyone. There has been a lot of violence and non-peaceful demonstrations that put a lot of lives and property at risk. We are getting bits and pieces of all the information, so we don’t know what’s happening. There have been so many discrepancies reported.
2. They need to get some sense of order restored, and they are going to have to have a very deep discussion on why this happened. I would be interested to see how the relationships and communication (between the community and police) were prior to this happening. This incident seems to have been a last-straw type of situation that has blossomed. There is going to have to be some soul-searching and some deep discussion on why things happened the way they did and where you go from here to restore peace in that community and throughout the region.
1. Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail and justice will be served. The peace needs to be restored as quickly as possible. I hope that all sides can come together and bring peace back to that community.
2. Communication is a big issue. Communication is always a key in these types of situations between police, government leaders and the community. Hopefully, peace can be restored with no further bloodshed, and the healing process can begin, which will take a long, long time.