Jackson’s departure comes way too late
[Black Star News Editorial]
Two police officers reportedly were shot and wounded Thursday morning after a night of protest outside the Ferguson Police Department where demonstrators had gathered to celebrate the resignation of embattled police chief Tom Jackson who leaves with a year’s salary in his pocket.
No suspect has yet been arrested or motive established but the incident comes in the midst of tensions in Ferguson related to the shooting death last year of Michael Brown the unarmed teenager and the recent report confirming systemic officially-sanctioned racism in the Ferguson police department.
Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting and said, “Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”
Jackson’s resignation comes in the wake of this critical DOJ report.
Released by attorney general Eric Holder, it shows there was officially-sanctioned targeting of African Americans for ticketing for manufactured infractions, to raise revenue for the city; and that racist e-mail messages were part of routine correspondences by officials, including messages denigrating President Obama, First Lady Michelle, and other Black people.
Ferguson entered the global news media last year when Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in cold blood in broad daylight on August 9.
There was an uprising that involved the destruction of property and some looting after the killing of Brown.
A grand jury whose work was compromised by prosecutors who seemed determined to prevent Wilson from facing a trial jury declined to indict the officer. The grand jurors were even initially told, erroneously, by prosecutors, that Missouri law allowed police officers to shoot suspects who were fleeing.
Police chief Jackson’s release of the video reported to show Michael Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store was intended to demonize the victim. Even The New York Times published an article by John Eligon noting that Brown was “no angel.”
Officer Wilson himself evidently understood the mindset of grand jurors and made it easier for the grand jury to let him walk by claiming Brown looked like a “demon”, and that the teenager manhandled him like a doll –playing on stereotypes about large Black males– when he reached for his gun while he was still seated inside his vehicle.
Regardless of whether the statement was true or not, combined with the false assertion that fleeing suspects could be shot, to the grand jurors, Wilson’s claim seemed to justify his action — emerging from his vehicle and following the unarmed Brown and shooting him dead, including with a bullet in his eye and on the apex of his skull.
Since Wilson had claimed he was afraid for his life from the “demon” teenager, to this editorial page, his actions seemed more like an unlawful and even vengeful execution, not legal police work.
The Justice Department’s report documented the officially-sanctioned racism within the Ferguson police department. Both police chief Jackson and Officer Wilson operated within this officially-sanctioned racist environment.
And it was this same officially-sanctioned guidance, documented in e-mail messages, that created the environment that inspired Officer Wilson to approach and engage Michael Brown (who was simply walking, on his way home) with no probable cause.
The rest is history; a very bad one at that.
Michael Brown would probably be alive today had it not been that both Jackson and Wilson were officers in a police department rife with officially-sanctioned racist targeting of African Americans.
Wilson should have faced federal charges for violating Brown’s civil rights: he was inspired by the racism officially-promoted in the Ferguson police department, to unlawfully engage Brown on that fateful August day.
It’s too bad that both resigned way too late.
Details of the shooting of the two officers Thursday outside the police department have yet to emerge.
The simmering tensions could increase between the Ferguson community and police.
At the very minimum, the Ferguson police department, which has only three Black officers out of a force of 50, must be transformed immediately — even if this takes retiring dozens of White officers and hiring more African Americans, or expanding the size of the force to include more Black officers.
It’s only March:
It will be a long hot summer in Ferguson unless decisive action is taken now.