Ferguson Resignations Underline Need for National Criminal Justice Reform

March 12, 2015

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several Ferguson, Missouri officials have now resigned after the release of a scathing Department of Justice (DOJ) report on that city’s police department that documented a widespread pattern of racial discrimination. What is now needed is implementation of criminal justice reforms not only within Ferguson but also nationwide.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned on March 11 after the DOJ report revealed systemic issues of racial bias and other abuses by the Ferguson Police Department. Earlier this week, a municipal judge, Ronald Brockmeyer, and John Shaw, the city manager, resigned from their posts. Two police officers have also resigned, and a court clerk is no longer at her post after the report revealed she sent racist emails.

However, Ferguson is sadly not unique, and many of the systemic problems identified by the DOJ plague police departments across the country.

A separate report by the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing recently recommended creating a national commission to review the entire US criminal justice system and to implement much needed reforms nationwide.

Black lives matter, the lives of Ferguson residents’ matter, as do the lives of people across the country who live in similar circumstances. All states, including Missouri, must ensure that reforms are undertaken to ensure that police practices respect human rights and that appropriate systems of oversight and accountability are in place.

Amnesty International USA released a report last year documenting human rights abuses in Ferguson, Missouri. following the shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent clashes between protesters and police. Recommendations included that Missouri, and other states, revise their use of lethal force policies and laws to ensure that lethal force is only ever used as a last resort against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Last night in Ferguson people took to the streets to demonstrate, exercising their rights to freedom of association and expression. There have been reports that two police officers outside the Ferguson, Missouri, police station were shot.

While police authorities have a duty to take steps to deal with those who may have broken the law, it is also critically important that those who are protesting peacefully continue to be allowed to do so.