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Riot Anxiety: How Ferguson Police Prep May Spark It
A vigil in support of Michael Brown occurs outside of the Ferguson Police Department. Ferguson police have been criticized for what some have called an overly miliarized response.

The city of Ferguson, Missouri anxiously awaits a Grand Jury verdict for the officer involved in shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

The incident has sparked widespread public outrage and conversation, culminating in a string of protests and demonstrations nationwide, some which turned violent. Another source of contention has been police response itself – particularly in Ferguson, where police were criticized for being overly aggressive and overly armed. 

Today, news outlets are reporting that St. Louis county police have spent $100,000 on riot gear, Governor Jay Nixon has put the National Guard on standby, and gun store owners say sales are up nearly 300 percent. 

But are all these preparations for violence creating the expectation it will occur? Texas Standard's David Brown speaks with Scott Bowman, associate professor of Criminal Justice at Texas State University, about what could potentially fuel public unrest.

“I believe in a lot of ways it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Bowman says. He says similar incidents of civil unrest can show what happens when tensions are already high – and for so long. 'It just takes something small to spark something that much larger," Bowman says. "If you put that many people in that space on edge, it may not take much to get something started."  

The Ferguson Police Department has already been under a great deal of scrutiny. CNN reports that since the shooting death of Michael Brown, three officers have resigned, retired, or been fired due to questionable actions. The department's response to anticipated protests will be under close scrutiny.

"The people are already there and are already in the streets. The question really is – what can you expect?" Bowman says. "I think that becomes the challenge for police officers …the difficulty of planning to maybe reinstate militarized policing in the community they work in."

Production assistant Alain Stephens contributed to this post. 

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.