Friday, March 13, 2015

More Ferguson Fallout As Two Officers Shot & Resignations Continue

The helmet of a Ferguson PD officer shot in the face
About the last thing the community of Ferguson needed was some cowardly deranged nut-bag (or nut-bags) shooting two members of the Ferguson Police Department after a peaceful protest the other night.

No question it was wrong and the overwhelming majority of people outraged over the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent Department of Justice report were horrified by one or two deranged gunmen attacking police officers.

Fortunately, the two officers have been released from the hospital, let's hope they recover and those responsible are found and brought to justice.

What hurts about the two officers being shot, aside from the injuries these men suffered and the idea of law enforcement professionals being attacked, it's that the cities of St. Louis and Ferguson and the state of Missouri were in the process of taking concrete actions to address these wrongs and start to restore a measure of trust between the community and the police department.

Ferguson PD Sgt. William Mudd
The remarkably unaware police chief Tom Jackson has already announced his pending resignation as head of the embattled Ferguson Police Department, and Sgt. William Mudd (pictured left) and Captain Rick Henke have resigned as well.

It's painful, but fair to ask the obvious question:

Would those two police officers have ever been shot had the original investigation of Michael Brown's death and the flawed prosecution of former officer Darren Wilson been conducted in a manner consistent with basic judicial procedures and fairness in the first place?

Probably not.

But that said, the actions of one or two people don't erase the need for massive systematic change in Ferguson.

The DOJ report, the ongoing peaceful protests by Ferguson citizens, the global media scrutiny, the intervention by the federal government and the anger that sparked a mentally disturbed gunman (or gunmen) to shoot those two officers didn't happen in a vacuum.

They're all direct results of years of entrenched and intentional bias on the part of police, and a court system that placed the rampant use of that bias as a means to boost municipal revenue over fair judicial oversight of Ferguson citizens.

The efforts to dismantle the dysfunctional elements within the Ferguson court system are well underway as well; as evidenced by the firing of Court Clerk Mary Ann Twitty.

Ex-Ferguson judge Ronald Brockmeyer
Ferguson municipal judge Ronald Brockmeyer (pictured left) resigned after the Missouri State Supreme Court assigned Roy L. Richter, a judge from the St. Louis County Circuit Court to take over Ferguson's pending municipal court cases.

St. Louis Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell expressed confidence in Richter's appointment, stating; "He is able and willing to implement needed reforms. Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the Court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis."

Brockmeyer came under intense criticism in the wake of the release of the DOJ report for his questionable handling of municipal court cases.

The report specifically noted that Brockmeyer used his position as a judge and familiarity with municipal laws in a 'creative' manner to ensure that African-American defendants payed fees, court costs and penalties that far exceeded the seriousness of the relatively minor municipal infractions Ferguson PD officers aggressively targeted them for on a routine basis - at the same time that he was helping to make tickets issued to his friends or associates "magically disappear" with the help of Court Clerk Mary Ann Twitty.

Brockmeyer also announced his resignation as the prosecutor in the neighboring communities of Florissant and Vinita Park.

If you were to ask the average person, being a judge in one city, while also serving as a prosecutor in two different neighboring communities sounds pretty sketchy.

But from interviews I've heard on NPR, people simultaneously serving as judges and prosecutors in multiple communities surrounding the metro St. Louis area is not unusual, or illegal.

Based on details in the DOJ report it is ethically questionable and ripe for the kinds of systematic abuse that stirred so much outrage in the Ferguson community and around the globe.
It's likely that other police officials and municipal employees associated with the racist e-mails and other conduct identified in the DOJ report will resign or be fired as well in an effort to not only restore trust.

But to bring balance and fairness to the enforcement of law in a community still reeling from unarmed college-bound high school graduate Michael Brown (who had no prior record) being shot and killed by a policeman who used a vague "manner of walking" code violation to initiate a confrontation not for purposes of public safety; but to boost revenue for the city's coffers.

Months later innocent people, including two Ferguson police officers, are still paying the price. 

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