Five years ago, a Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, and the nation turned its attention to the deeply entrenched racism that infected the Ferguson Police Department, municipal courts and city management.
Though Brown’s death was one of many injustices the Ferguson community experienced at the hands of police, Ferguson police’s callous disregard for Brown — leaving his lifeless body lying in the sun for hours — ignited a spark in the community.
So, while juggling full-time jobs and battling the Ferguson Police Department’s war-like resistance, Ferguson community members wiped their tears and got to work, becoming a powerful force for demanding change. Residents, many of whom were previously strangers, united to diversify the City Council and police, help create the Neighborhood Policing and Steering Committee and the Civilian Review Board task force, and more.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. proudly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with residents as they pushed for an investigation into the Ferguson police, and demanded implementation of a federal consent decree after the investigation revealed rampant racially biased policing.
They used that very consent decree to push the Department of Justice and city to dismiss more than 44,000 pre-2014 court cases stemming from the Ferguson police’s racially targeted practices, and make the police draft revised policies available for public comment.
As policy counsel for the legal defense fund who has worked intimately on policing reform efforts in Ferguson and as a member of the local community group Ferguson Collaborative, we’ve watched as community members attended every consent decree hearing; revised the Ferguson Police Department’s policies; and testified in court. Ferguson’s progress is truly the result of grit and determination from ordinary folks with extraordinary vision and drive.
Read the full op-ed here.