With a grand jury decision imminent in the case of Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, law enforcement officials in St. Louis said Friday that they would agree to some, but not all, of the "Rules of Engagement" for dealing with the public proposed earlier this month by area protesters.
In recent weeks, a coalition of more than 50 protesters in Ferguson have created a list of 19 rules of conduct they want police to follow during future demonstrations -- particularly those expected to occur once the grand jury announces whether it will indict Wilson, who on Aug. 9 fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
As of Friday, the jury was still in session, but a decision is expected before the end of the month.
On Friday, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay tweeted a link to a post on his official website, which said that police commanders have met or spoken with protest leaders five times to discuss the proposed rules, and have fully agreed to eight of the 19.
"The first priority shall be the preservation of human life," reads the Rules of Engagement document -- a statement with which the police command said they agree.
Some of the other rules of conduct that law enforcement officials said they would honor include "clear standards of professionalism and sound community-friendly policing," and the treatment of protesters as citizens and not “enemy combatants.”
However, despite the police response, some Ferguson protesters remain skeptical about whether officers can be trusted to protect citizens or prevent violence.
“The police ‘response’ to the Rules of Engagement was a hollow attempt to feign that they want peace,” DeRay McKesson told The Huffington Post Friday. McKesson is a key activist in the Ferguson movement and a member of the coalition that composed the list of rules.
Slay, together with Missouri Department of Safety Director Dan Isom and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, issued a statement Friday that urged peace in the coming days and addressed the list of rules.
Slay said that while some of the proposed rules make sense and are indeed already being practiced by law enforcement, others would make it difficult or impossible for officers to carry out their jobs.
“The bottom line is that we have instructed our police officers to protect the protesters’ Constitutional rights,” Slay wrote on his website. “We have directed them to use more active tactics only when necessary to keep people safe or to protect property.”
According to documents published online, police declined requests for officers to “wear only the attire minimally required for their safety,” saying instead that they will use protective gear when needed to protect fellow officers, and that the gear would not be used to intimidate protesters.
They also declined requests to prohibit the use of crowd control equipment, including armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles and tear gas, saying the use of those tools and equipment will be left to law enforcement’s discretion.
Another point of disagreement was the use of safe houses for protesters as “sacred ground." While the unified command said they would honor those spaces, they also said that “life safety and exigent circumstances could be valid reasons to enter.”
Law enforcement authorities also did not agree to provide protesters with 48 hours’ notice ahead of the grand jury’s announcement, saying that decision was beyond their control.
In the past few nights, police have arrested a handful of protesters in Ferguson. Many fear that the presence of so many law enforcement officials, including members of the National Guard, will only exacerbate the situation if violence breaks out.
“The police, with the arrests [from] the past nights, continue to provoke and agitate protesters,” McKesson told HuffPost in an email. “Justice is blind to blackness in STL.”
In effort to maintain the peace, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and Michael Brown’s father have all addressed the public in recent days to call for calm and urge people not to resort to violence.
“I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation -- but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” Michael Brown Sr. said Thursday.
“No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain," said Brown. "I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."