RPD Chief Chris Magnus assists DOJ investigation in Ferguson, Missouri
on October 10, 2014
The U.S. Department of Justice brought Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus to Ferguson, MO last month, as part of a panel of experts to assist in the ongoing civil rights investigation following the shooting death of an unarmed teen there this summer.
Magnus was invited by federal officials to “look at protocols, procedures, training and supervision,” in St. Louis County, according to Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan. Magnus will return to Ferguson next month to help complete a report on what the local police can do to reduce deadly force and avoid crises in the future, Gagan said.
Gagan said Magnus’ involvement is a testament to the success of his approach in Richmond, where the use of deadly force by police has fallen significantly in recent years. In September, the city experienced its first fatal shooting by a police officer since 2007.
“It’s a compliment to his professional reputation, that he gets all this national attention,” Gagan said.
The ongoing unrest in Missouri follows weeks of protests and riots stemming from the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The local police response to the upheaval drew criticism for being outsized, overly militarized and for increasing tension between police and locals in a town already marked by distrust toward the police.
Brown’s death revived a national conversation about race and the criminal justice system. Ferguson police came under particular scrutiny for its racial disparity: A mostly white police force operating in a predominantly African American community, where local residents had long voiced concerns of systemic prejudice.
By contrast, Magnus has enjoyed praise for his success in reducing crime and improving relations between his department and Richmond residents since taking the helm in 2006.
Magnus on Thursday acknowledged that he visited Ferguson at the request of the Department of Justice, but declined to comment, saying that his work there is part of an ongoing investigation and will be further explained later.
In a recent interview with Vox.com, Magnus expounded on his idea of effective policing, stressing the importance of properly training officers to deal with high-risk situations without resorting to use of deadly force.
“What we try to do is give our officers as many resources and as much training as possible to deal with different kinds of threats and circumstances, and then give them lots of practice in how to make the best possible choice that resolves that situation, hopefully, with the least amount of force necessary to reach a safe outcome for everybody involved,” Magnus told Vox.com.
City Councilman Jael Myrick, who accompanied Magnus on a recent trip to Washington D.C. as part of the Violence Reduction Network initiative, said Magnus brings a record and a perspective that is needed in Ferguson.
“They [the Ferguson police] need somebody who knows about community policing, how to treat a community with respect,” Myrick said. “And Chief Magnus knows how to do that.”
Felix Hunziker, a Richmond Police Commissioner, said Magnus should be able to help Ferguson officials.
“I can’t think of anyone better to assist the police in Ferguson,” Hunziker said. “He really understands community policing. He really gets it.”
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