I am deeply troubled by what's happened in Ferguson. When you turn over a rock, all kinds of things can crawl out from underneath it. The spotlight on this small town in Missouri has brought many uncomfortable issues out into the light, and perhaps we can make good of it by using this opportunity to educate the larger public. For many of us, these are issues we already live with every day.
An unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was shot dead by a white police officer on Saturday August 9th in a suburb of St. Louis. Protests in the community sprung up after his death, and continue today. More about the bare facts of what happened in Ferguson, from Vox.
Missouri may seem far away, but the recent LAPD shootings and the problems with our sheriff's office and the jails show that we have our own problems at home. A mentally ill young man, Ezell Ford, was shot and killed by police in South Los Angeles August 11th. He was walking home at the time. Thank you to Councilman Curren Price for his leadership in holding a community forum, where people had a chance to talk directly to the LAPD Chief and others about Ezell's death and ongoing issues with policing in Los Angeles.
I don't have any easy answers for Ferguson, but these are some things I believe to be true:
- We need a full and fair investigation of the circumstances of Michael Brown’s and Ezell Ford's death.
- If the local investigations are not full and fair, then the appropriate authorities (whether it be the state, the FBI, or even the Department of Justice) need to get answers -- and prosecute if appropriate. The blue wall of silence protects far too many predatory officers, at the expense of honest and fair cops.
- Non-violent protestors have a right to protest, especially until a full and fair investigation is held. Journalists have a right to cover that protest. People should not be tear gassed or thrown in jail for exercising their rights, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- We also cannot ignore the unequal state of law enforcement in our country. Racial profiling and harassment and police violence directed at people of color must stop, and we've got to hold them accountable until it does stop.
- Representative government matters. There is no way to expect justice and fairness when a community that is 67% African-American has just 3 of 53 police officers that are African-American.