The news coming out of Ferguson is distressing - a grand jury has failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The evidence that was presented to the grand jury was not consistent, and many witnesses disagreed with Officer Wilson's testimony, but the officer will not face criminal charges for killing Brown. This is a deeply troubling story, and exposes huge disparities in justice in our society.
The aftermath also reminds us that we don’t actually know how many police shootings of unarmed people of color are occurring across the country. Without better information, we will be unable to change how we respond.
The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, personally engaged in the community protests following the shooting, but a long-term federal commitment is necessary.
The US Department of Justice must act now: First to hold local, militarized police forces accountable, the DOJ should dispatch legal observers to Ferguson to actively monitor and prevent civil rights violations to protestors. Second, DOJ should initiate a federal review and tracking program of all police shootings, flagging them immediately, and investigating and addressing unjustified use of force by police officers across the country against unarmed individuals, with a special attention to disparities experienced by people of color.
Our nation must come together to investigate and address police shootings. Officers trained to serve and protect our communities must be held accountable when they fail in that mission.