Former St. Louis police officer weighs in on Ferguson shooting from a historical perspective
Former St. Louis police officer Edward Kendrick and wife Verna lived in St. Louis for many years. Kendrick shares his views regarding his life and times there and the issues facing Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
By Charles Moseley
Up until that fateful day of Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 the most famous name probably to be associated with the small mid-western town of Ferguson, Mo. would be that of Grammy Award winner singer Michael McDonald. Ironically the untimely death of an un-armed Black teenager named Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, would forever link the name Michael Brown with the town of Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson has yet to be charged with any criminal offense pending further investigation and has been placed on administrative leave.
The incident sparked protests resulting in some looting, followed by violent confrontations between some protesters and local law enforcement officials. In a major show of force the National Guard was deployed to the area. In the days that followed, the area became embroiled in controversy not only due TO the shooting death of Brown but what many perceived as the excessive use of force by law enforcement including firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protestors.
On Aug. 11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a parallel civil rights investigation into the incident, and Attorney General Eric Holder instructed the Justice Department staff to closely monitor the events in Ferguson as they unfold.
On Thursday, Aug. 14, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the state’s Highway Patrol under the command of Captain Ronald Johnson, a native of Ferguson to help bring some stability and restore calm to the area.
In a major show of force the National Guard was deployed to the area on Monday, August. 18, 2014. They were deployed by Governor Nixon to Ferguson and an 8 p.m. curfew was imposed. In the days that followed, the area became embroiled in controversy; not only due to the shooting death of Brown but what many perceived as the excessive use of force by law enforcement, including firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protestors.
Also on Monday, Aug. 18th, reportedly Brown’s family and Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner who examined Brown’s body on Sunday, released findings which showed Brown had been shot at least six times to the front of his body, that the fatal shot was fired into the top of his head and exited from the front, and that he did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no powder burns were found on his body.
Edward Kendrick grew up in St. Louis not very far from Ferguson. He and his wife Verna, now both retired, moved to Broward County from St. Louis, 10 years ago.
By all accounts Edward Kendrick has led an exemplary life. He was born in St. Louis, Mo. on Sept. 9, 1927. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1943 to 1946. He also was a police officer with the St. Louis Police Department from 1953 to 1955. Kendrick grew up on the heels of The Great Depression.
Kendrick recently agreed to sit down with the Westside Gazette and agreed to shed some light on the Ferguson shooting, the people that live there, and based on 86 years of experience; provide some insight on the situation.
Westside Gazette Newspaper (WG): What was St. Louis like when you were growing up there?
Kendrick: “As children, segregation was the thing back then. We (Blacks) were not mistreated that I was aware of. Everybody knew their place. Our school system was segregated. As I was a child that was shortly after the Depression and times were pretty hard for everybody. My father was able to find work under a federal work program begun by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the New Deal called the Works Progress Administration(WPA). Most of the Black people were on what was known at the time as Providence, where we received food from the government. After the war started things began to pick up.”
WG: What was it like serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II?
Kendrick: “In 1943 I quit high school to join the Navy at 16 -years-old. I put my age up to 18 in order to register. We enlisted in the Seamen’s Branch of the Navy because at that time the Seamen’s Branch had just opened to Negroes. I had an uncle who was in the Army who had become a Second Lieutenant in the Army who was my hero. I began my Navy career in Great Lakes, Ill. At that time Black Seaman were not stationed aboard ships. The only Black people who were stationed aboard ships were Stewards. I was placed into the Medical Core. I was transferred to Hastings, Nebraska and from there to Okinawa, Japan. I was used basically to do clerical work while in the service. I developed racial consciousness in the service. I had some experiences that were not very good and I always tried to fight racial discrimination and racial violence against me.”
WG: How were Blacks perceived by those who lived in South Pacific that you came in contact with?
Kendrick: “When I was stationed in Hawaii I didn’t go out much beyond the naval base because Black people were treated pretty poorly. It was reported that some of the Hawaiian women thought that Black people had tales. I didn’t want any parts of that so I stayed on base. For the most part my navel experience was positive because I grew into manhood. But it was a negative experience as far as my relationship with whites. Because I saw that we were all in segregated living quarters but all our officers were white. There were not nice especially to me and I was not trying to be a good boy either. I was a non-conformist.”