Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday to meet with local community leaders and law enforcement officials in an effort to calm the civil unrest that has broken out in Ferguson in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
12 days of protests and demonstrations have occurred since the unarmed black teenage was fatally shot by a white police officer on August 9. Police did little to calm the cries for justice by refusing to release the name of the officer who shot the teen until six days after the incident. By that time, the public had already made up their mind that the incident was racially charged and the department was attempting to hide its misdeeds.
Hours prior to releasing the name of the officer, the police department released surveillance photos that allegedly show Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store. Authorities argued that they spoke to Brown’s intent and character, but it came off as a callous move, and certainly shoplifting doesn’t warrant fatal force.
Just this afternoon Fox News reported that the officer at the heart of the story – Darren Wilson – suffered severe facial injuries and an orbital eye fracture during a struggle with Brown, but some witnesses say there was no struggle. It’s not unheard of to have contradictory witness accounts (another reason police should implement body cameras), but it seems odd that the officer’s medical condition wasn’t known until now, nearly two weeks after the incident. If the police were truly interested in proving to the world that the shooting was justified, why not name the officer and detail his injuries to the public as soon as the facts are known?
It’s clear that the police have mishandled the resulting situation. Police fired tear gas at protestors one night, the mayor implemented a curfew one night and repealed it the next night, and 47 individuals were arrested Tuesday amid the chaos. The question that remains is, “Where does the situation go from here?”
Paul Edlund comments
The situation in Ferguson has been ongoing for almost a week now, and shows no signs of letting up, primarily due to the police department’s incredibly poor handling of the situation. In order to achieve peace, law enforcement need to acknowledge their wrongdoing and stop treating the civilians they are supposed to protect like criminals. We will look back on this as a major event in our history.
I also find it interesting that the Ferguson police released a video of Brown robbing a convenience store shortly before he was shot dead. What’s interesting is not the video itself, but the motivation behind releasing it. Police have admitted that the officer who shot Brown had no knowledge of this robbery at the time of the shooting. As a result, this video is irrelevant to Brown’s death. It only serves to paint Brown as a dangerous thug in the eyes of the public. This is a PR move, plain and simple, and it only further antagonizes the protesters.
Related source: Fox News
The Fresno police department is taking a page out of Duluth’s playbook by purchasing 100 body cameras for officers to use on the force.
The Fresno City Council authorized the purchase of 100 body cameras on Thursday for use in the field. The bill for the cameras and video storage checks in at $159,732, but the city received a $70,000 grant from the state to help offset a good portion of the cost. The city will foot the rest of the bill.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said he expects his team will begin using the cameras in September after officers go through proper training. Dyer added that the cameras will be used to record interactions with citizens to provide an unbiased look into how an incident unfolded. He believes the cameras will improve the public’s trust in the police force.
The Fresno police department only had enough money in the budget to equip 100 officers with body cameras, but Dyer said the goal is to eventually outfit all 715 officers with cameras.
Paul Edlund comments
This is a great move by the Fresno police department, which may have gotten the idea from the Duluth police department. As I mentioned before, the presence of a camera will add a neutral observer to the equation.
No longer will judges and juries be forced to issue a ruling solely on “he said, she said” arguments. Instead, a judge can simply watch video of the incident in question.
When people know they are being filmed, they tend to act more civilly. I have no doubt that the presence of these cameras will cut down on the number of police misconduct cases filed against the department.