It's been more than four months since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The incident sparked a movement that brought to light the social injustices that continue to permeate our communities throughout today's America. Racial profiling and use of excessive force by police has brought people from all walks of life to the streets to stand up and say enough is enough. The time for change is now.
The November 24th grand jury decision not to indict the officer that killed Michael Brown caused the sustained unrest and protests in Ferguson and in St. Louis to morph into a movement nationwide and around the world. The mood of the country with respect to Ferguson was both somber and heated at the same time.
The community unrest will be around as long as the injustice is not dealt with. The federal investigation is now looked to for justice. Only that will bring peace to the family of Michael Brown and the Ferguson community. Led by the Justice Department, we have a real opportunity to make very specific policy changes that include a national mandate for police body cameras, national police training standards, and a national jobs program. Nonetheless, policy changes alone will only scratch the surface of the much larger issues of social and economic injustices in today's America.
State legislative bodies have the opportunity to change laws that will mandate independent investigations and mandate an independent prosecutor for police involved shootings. Wisconsin law requires an independent investigation for police involved shootings, but not without a hard fight for reform.
A week after the grand jury announcement regarding the death of Michael Brown, some young people who were on the front lines in Ferguson, met with President Obama. The young organizers presented their wish list for change. It includes: the appointment of special prosecutors when police use deadly force, the establishment of community review boards to monitor police misconduct, the de-funding of law enforcement agencies that use excessive force or racially profile, as well as the demilitarization of local police departments.
In addition to meeting with the young people and others, President Obama formed a task force to address some of the issues at hand. He asked the task force to deliver their findings to him in 90 days.
For his part, Governor Nixon formed the Ferguson Commission. The 16-member commission is asked to deliver a final report by September 2015. Some of the agenda items they have considered so far include municipal court practices and whether police unfairly target minorities and the poor for traffic issues.
As we prepare to say goodbye to 2014, it is my prayer that in the weeks and months ahead our community and communities across the country will seek to live together peaceably, work together with respect for positive change, and engage in creating positive ways to improve social and economic justice for all people.
Office of the Comptroller
Law, Safety, and Justice
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