The world turns its head again towards Ferguson, which as my activist friends there will attest: never stepped back from demanding justice for the death of Michael Brown. For anyone who managed to miss this, of which I think there are few even where I live here in Germany, Michael Brown was shot dead, unarmed, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, on August 9th, 2014.
Following the shooting, riots and then consistent protest resulted: calls for systemic reform and responsibility resounded on a national level. Eye witness accounts clearly placed officer Darren Wilson in the wrong, and discussions about the role of race in the issue dominated the air-waves. The dominating question was if Darren Wilson, who at worst suffered the injury of a “facial contusion” from the encounter, would be held responsible for what is generally recognized as an inappropriate use of deadly force.
On November 24th, 2014, the Missouri court system replied that, in line with what Americans have come to expect, police officers will not be held responsible for their behavior. Frequent shootings of unarmed individuals occur: so many that statistics have been compiled showing that around 50% were simply mentally ill and unable to respond to the officers’ commands. This is a problem not restricted to Missouri, and it is a problem which has not left center stage since Michael Brown’s shooting.
Review of the court documents and transcripts clearly lays out a scenario in which officer Darren Wilson chose to escalate his use of force to a deadly level under the threat of physical violence, and a situation in which he was not even aware of how many shots he fired. Despite claiming that Michael Brown lost all aggression after Wilson fired his first shot: he continued to fire, guarenteeing Michael Brown’s death.
Although this situation is less egregious than when officers shot a man who called a suicide hotline for help or when they shot an unarmed student 5 times in the back, it is clear that this is a serious problem. The status quo, and the increasing death-toll, cannot be allowed to continue. All around the country, protests following the verdict reflected this sentiment, from Washington D.C. to Seattle.
What do we need? We need to hold officers responsible: both in court and on the streets. A simple solution that has already been shown to reduce the use of force by 60% and complaints by 90% is the use of mini-cameras on the uniforms. Beyond that, the system should treat officers of the law with the same expectations and punishments as seen by the rest of us: punishing them with more than a paid vacation (also known as paid leave).
For anyone who wants to read the court transcripts which led to Darren Wilson walking free, we are displaying them below: