Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Michael Brown and Disparity of Due Process

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Michael Brown and Disparity of Due Process

Article excerpt

Michael Brown didn't get due process.

The still unnamed police officer who shot the 18-year-old black teenager dead in Ferguson will get plenty of it.

This is the root of the frustration that is driving the African- American community to the streets in north St. Louis County over yet another senseless killing of a young black man.

"What do we want? Justice!" chanted a crowd of family, friends and community members who gathered after the Saturday shooting. "When do we want it? Now!"

They may get justice in the form of a prosecution of the police officer who shot and killed the recent Normandy High School graduate but the odds aren't stacked in their favor, and even if it happens, it won't happen anytime soon.

America's history is riddled with officer-involved-shootings in which juries give police who perform a dangerous job the benefit of the doubt. Trying to learn from those shootings to prevent further ones is difficult, says criminologist David Klinger, one of the nation's foremost experts on police shootings.

Mr. Klinger, a former police officer, practices his craft just down the street from Ferguson, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he is an associate professor in the criminal justice department.

One of the findings in a 2012 study he did of shootings by police in the city of St. Louis could offer some interesting guidance to whomever ultimately investigates the shooting of Michael Brown. Mr. Klinger recommended that the shooting investigations be handled with more transparency, and that ultimately, findings be posted on the department's website, with the names of officers clearly identified.

Few police departments nationwide operate with such transparency, Mr. Klinger's research has found, and that means little public accountability when a police officer shoots an unarmed civilian.

It's no wonder, then, that leaders in Ferguson, including members of the NAACP, have called for the FBI to take over the lead in the investigation into how an unarmed 18-year-old was shot.

That's a good suggestion, especially considering that the NAACP already has an ongoing federal complaint against the county police department over alleged racial profiling. …

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