After a Ferguson, Mo., policeman was recently spotted then blasted on social media for sporting an “I am Darren Wilson” wristband in support of officer Darren Wilson (pictured) who fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has put a ban in place for county and state law enforcement against wearing the bracelet, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The August 9th Brown murder sparked weeks of unrest in the small town, with residents joining in protest against Wilson. Not surprisingly, the bracelets have reportedly caused Ferguson residents to feel “upset and agitated,” according to a DOJ investigation. Still, policeman have been seen wearing the bracelets. Therefore, Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the civil rights division’s special litigation section, released the following letter in response:
We are keenly aware of the importance of individual expression of opinions, even those that some find offensive, insensitive, or harmful. We also acknowledge that the message that many officers intend to convey by wearing these bracelets may be different than the message received by many of those who see these bracelets.
Nonetheless, there is no question that police departments can and should closely regulate officers’ professional appearance and behavior, particularly where, as here, the expressive accessory itself is exacerbating an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson. These bracelets reinforce the very “us versus them” mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.
Many of the officers who sported the bracelets also reportedly blacked out their nameplates, which is against police policy. St. Louis County police were reportedly aware of the photos of officers wearing the bracelets but have been unable to identify the officers or the departments they work for, spokesman Brian Schellman told the Los Angeles Times. Brown family attorney Anthony Gray also told the Times that the family had not seen reports about the bracelets.
Meanwhile, Ferguson police and the Justice Department have been investigating the shooting of Michael Brown. A grand jury is deliberating about whether to charge Wilson.