The St. Louis County Police Department on Friday took control of security surrounding the protests in Ferguson, Mo., that have persisted since the death of Michael Brown, 18, at the hands of a police officer on Aug. 9.
Chief Thomas Jackson of the Ferguson Police Department asked the county to step in, citing a "lack of manpower and resources" at the disposal of the relatively small Ferguson police force, said Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the county police.
In a statement, the county force said it intends to "provide both our citizens and the media with the safest environment possible so that they may freely exercise their First Amendment right, while also protecting the rights and safety of all residents and businesses in the city of Ferguson."
The shift means that the responsibility for making arrests, booking and releasing prisoners, and filing charges will be handled by the county force, a significantly larger and more sophisticated police department that is the main law enforcement agency for much of the county.
Some municipalities in St. Louis County, such as Ferguson, maintain their own smaller forces but depend on the county police to handle more serious criminal activity. The St. Louis County police are in charge of the investigation into Brown's death.
Since the larger demonstrations after Brown's death that drew a heavy police response and national media attention, protesters in recent weeks have gathered in modest numbers on a nightly basis in Ferguson, a suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis. The protesters frequently beat drums, shout at police officers and march in the streets with hands raised in the air.
Nearby residents and business owners have grown impatient with their presence, with one automotive shop owner asking protesters to stop using his parking lot as a staging ground.
The police have arrested protesters for offenses including violating noise ordinances. Some advocates have said that in many cases, the police have overreached in making arrests. More than a dozen protesters were arrested Thursday night, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to undertake a review of the events.
"There do appear to be, if not bogus, at least unnecessary arrests," said Tony Rothert, an attorney for the ACLU.
Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown. Protesters want Wilson, who is white, to be charged in the killing of the unarmed black teen. A grand jury considering the case isn't expected to rule for at least another month.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.