By: Dominic Sanfilippo – Staff Writer
Police office Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, in the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. In the seven months since Brown’s death, more questions than answers linger for many Ferguson residents, American citizens and people across the world.
The protests, public outcry and debate that received a great deal of media coverage and sparked global attention last fall have continued in the spring, albeit in more muted ways. This month’s release of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report on Ferguson renewed passionate, heated calls for justice, understanding and reform.
On March 4, NPR reported that the DOJ, in a six month long inquiry initiated after the Ferguson shooting and protests, highlighted patterns of racial bias in the local judicial system and, to quote the report, found a “pattern of unconstitutional policing” in Ferguson’s police department.
Several local leaders, including Ferguson’s city manager, have resigned or been fired in the wake of the report, according to CBS St. Louis. The resignation of the town’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, was effective as of Thursday. In the letter, which was acquired and published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jackson stated, “continue to assist the city in any way I can in my capacity as a private citizen.”
The report affirmed that Wilson, will not be indicted on federal civil rights charges, according to NPR. As of December 2014, CNN reported that Wilson has largely been living out of the public eye, often staying at different homes of friends.
Despite the fact that calm and rebuilding have marked the past few months in Ferguson, violence recently reared its head again by another shooting, this time injuring police officers.
At a protest outside the police department on March 12, a 20-year-old St. Louis resident, Jeffery Williams, shot through the crowd and hit two St. Louis County police officers, according to St. Louis Public Radio (SLPR). Williams was charged, according to SLPR, with “two counts of felony assault in the first degree, two counts of armed criminal action and with shooting with a firearm from a moving vehicle.” Both officers have since recovered and have been released from the hospital, SLPR reported.
Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama both denounced the shooting of the two police officers, with the president saying there was “no excuse” for such a violent act from Williams on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” according to Fox News. The Atlantic reported March 16 that Williams has said, that although he fired the shots, he was not aiming for the officers.
People looking for answers have looked to other traumatic, violent incidents and national debates for a path to healing. On Friday, Reuters writer Terry Golway referenced the changes made in Northern Ireland after the Catholic-Protestant conflicts and the disbanding and reorganization of New York City’s police department before the Civil War as historical examples that could give guidance to the tough questions that lie ahead.
“Nobody would ever suggest that police officers put popularity ahead of duty,” Golway wrote. “The business of enforcing the law can be, and perhaps ought to be, unpopular at times.”
“But when the bond between a community and its police force is broken, history shows that authorities often have no choice but to start from scratch. It requires more than a name change or a shakeup in command structure.”
“I’m not sure what the path forward [with Ferguson] should be,” Sean McDonnell, a junior finance major from the Chicago suburbs who studied abroad in Maynooth, Ireland, last fall, said. “Dialogue and honesty between everyone involved is crucial, though. It’s worked before, and it can work here too.”