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richard heinRichard Hein

The people's Lawyer

From St Louis, Missouri - EE.UU

Ferguson: One Year and One Day On

1afergusonEEUUOne year and one day ago, Michael Brown, Jr., was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in the City of Ferguson, a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri, a city and state located in the geographic, demographic and political middle of the United States. His shooting led to local protests, violence and looting in the days following the shooting. The police tactics utilized to counter the civil disruption as well as the subsequent refusal of the Grand Jury to indict Officer Wilson for the shooting, led to further violence, Missouri Governor Nixon deploying the National Guard, country-wide protests, and sparked a national awareness and movement related to race relations, policing, institutionalized racism, poverty, civil rights and the criminal justice system.

In the year and a day since August 9, 2015, what has changed in Ferguson? This is a partial list of public commissions and actions taken in response to Michael Brown’s shooting:

The Department of Justice Report on Ferguson (revealing evidence of racism within the municipal government of Ferguson);

The resignation of Ferguson Chief of Police Thomas Jackson;

The resignation of Ferguson Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer;

The resignation of the Ferguson City Manager;

The discharge of the Clerk of the Ferguson Municipal Court;

Governor Nixon establishing the Ferguson Commission (which is set to deliver findings and recommendations by September 15, 2015);

President Obama establishing the Commission on 21st Century Policing (Interim Report issued in March 2015, final Report in May 2015);

The establishment of St. Louis County Municipal Court Improvement Commission (instituting uniform traffic fines across 80 of the 82 municipal courts in the Saint Louis area);

Ferguson Municipal Elections held April 7, 2015 (the new City Council is more representative of the populace, although voter turnout was not as high as expected);

New Interim Chief of Police Anderson appointed;

National calls for police body cams;

Calls for the disbandment of the Ferguson Police Department;

Civil Law Suit filed on behalf of Michael Brown’s family (currently pending, was removed from Saint Louis County Circuit Court to Federal U.S. District Court in downtown Saint Louis);

The City of Ferguson rejecting the Department of Justice’s initial demand for a consent decree regarding civil rights violations;

Several other broad based community-led commissions and committees;

And perhaps most significantly, at least at the state level, the passage into law of Missouri Senate Bill 5 (which goes into effect August 28, 2015, making it illegal for revenue from traffic stops to be more than 30% of a municipal budget and requiring municipal courts to report to the state).

While the elections in Ferguson and Senate Bill 5 appear to be positive steps, there should be a real and sustained systemic review of the municipal phenomenon in the Saint Louis area, which may be unlike any metropolitan area in the United States, with the goal and objective being identifying the effects of the reduction and/or elimination of overlapping layers of redundant police forces.