The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 sparked an irrepressible flame of outrage in the American people—no longer could the public ignore systemic police brutality, particularly towards the African American community.
The officer involved in the shooting, Darren Wilson, was cleared of wrongdoing in a federal investigation, which made people even angrier. This was no fluke accident; a report by the Justice Department found a pattern of this behavior: “discrimination was fueled in part by racial stereotypes held by city officials.” Clearly, something in the system was inherently broken and needed to be comprehensively fixed.
Today, Ferguson may finally be beginning the necessary steps to addressing its issues with race.
The city has entered into a 127-page proposed agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. As NPR notes, it “creates guidelines for training police officers on issues like when they should use force and how they can ‘reorient Ferguson's use-of-force policies toward de-escalation and avoiding force.’ The agreement also requires body-worn cameras and an overhaul of the municipal court system.”
The proposal will still have to be voted on by Ferguson’s City Council on February 9, but Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta hopes it will pass: “We remain hopeful that the city council will approve the agreement on that date, and that we will not have to resort to contested litigation, given that this would delay implementation of much needed police and court reform, and divert substantial resources away from the reform effort."
This is an incredibly useful measure to help focus on the root of the problem in Ferguson, rather than simply alleviating its symptoms. According to Slate, other cities with these issues are also in the process of adopting similar decrees, such as Cleveland, Baltimore, and Chicago.