No justice no peace, no racist police

More stories from Angel Winklepleck


Last Monday, a grand jury in Ferguson made the (not at all surprising) decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown. That means they found no probable cause to charge Officer Wilson with any crime. The response (also not at all surprising) was more protesting and unrest, a result of tension and distrust boiling over.

I’ve been following this case since the August 9 shooting, after seeing the first round of protests in news broadcasts. I’ve also been sitting on this editorial, unable to find the right words. Due to the sensitive nature of this case and the racial tension surrounding it, I was hesitant to share my two cents. The last thing I wanted to do was come off as arrogant, or as though I could ever fully understand the case’s gravity. However, after some thought, I decided that the most important thing was to help get some of the information I’ve gathered out there.

Bob McCulloch, Wilson’s prosecutor, is taking most of the blame for the decision. Many believe McCulloch is responsible for Wilson’s getting off, due to the fact that he handled his position rather unconventionally. For those that are unfamiliar, the purpose of a grand jury is not to put people away–instead, they simply decide whether or not there’s a good reason to charge someone with a crime. The real trial comes later, provided they return an indictment. Traditionally, the prosecutor tells the grand jury what charges they seek in the matter, and then a few main witnesses testify. McCulloch instead chose to present them with “every scrap of evidence” and allow every witness to testify.

From the outside, it appears that those involved in the case weren’t committed to their roles. Several mistakes were made, including the grand jury being given an outdated statute that was deemed unconstitutional in 1984. The statute says an officer can shoot a suspect for merely fleeing. The prosecution neglected to correct this error for two months, only informing the grand jury three days before their verdict. The prosecution also failed to answer a question from the grand jury as to whether or not Supreme Court decisions override Missouri’s laws (they do).

To put it bluntly: the entire hearing and investigation was a sham. In fact, it’s almost as if it were choreographed to be this big of a failure. The jurors were overwhelmed with information, some of which didn’t coincide with accounts in the media. Wilson’s testimony doesn’t line up with his interview with the detective, in which he claimed to have no clue what Brown was holding, only later saying it was a pack of cigarillos. Officer Wilson also neglected to follow protocol, placing his gun in an evidence envelope himself, rather than turning it over to a supervisor. The gun itself? Nobody dusted it for prints, because an investigator thought that Wilson maintained control of his weapon the entire time, even though one of Wilson’s main points was that Brown seized the piece.

Another thing to consider is the issue of juror bias. Legal experts know how easy it is to get an indictment whether it’s on a federal or state level.  In 2010, grand juries returned 162,000 federal indictments, and only 11 non-indictments. It’s plenty easy, that is, unless that ham happens to come from a white cop.

Policemen with a badge are essentially invincible when it comes to being indicted or sentenced in brutality cases. Officers who were recorded and thus seen globally strangling Eric Garner on a New York City street add their names to the list of cops not charged. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer at the front of the Garner case, has a history of violating black citizens’ rights. Three lawsuits from four different men in the recent past state Pantaleo unlawfully and unfairly arrested them. So, what’s keeping these cops employed?

The NYPD officially banned the choke hold in ‘93. However, a good chunk of the department’s officers still use this wrestling move on suspects stopped for minor offenses that don’t require that level of force. 1,000 complaints have reached the department in the past five years, detailing instances of suspects being choked and otherwise mistreated by officers. After Garner’s name was added to list of those being shouted by protesters, police held a pregnant woman in a choke hold for allegedly grilling illegally. A pregnant woman. In a choke hold. For grilling. The NYPD is now retraining all of their officers.

Some of you might be looking at the news and thinking, “Well it isn’t all cops! What about the other cases that DON’T involved white officers and black victims?” Well, what about them? The issue at hand is one that uniquely and overwhelmingly affects black and Hispanic citizens. And, it doesn’t need to be every single cop for it to be a problem. Some of you might have a relative or friend on the force, and I’m sure they’re a real stand-up person. But the thing is, there are police officers out there murdering black youth at a rate that outpaces lynchings in the 1920’s. Fortunately, people right now are out there marching, trying to change the world they live in.


P.S. I encourage all of you to read the links I’ve sourced–they include a plethora of information I left out.