– By Kiran Butte- One of the reasons why the Ferguson case became notorious was because of the city’s past of alleged racial profiling and inequality within its justice system. According to USA Today, African-Americans make up approximately 67% of Ferguson’s population while only 5.7% of its police force. This lack of diversity in the Ferguson Police Department and other leadership positions in the city is not an accurate representation of the community for which it serves and must be at least partly responsible for what is going on there. These issues were not adequately explored back in 2014, as the main priority was solving the case and understanding what happened. But now, four months after Darren Wilson was not indicted and the case was essentially closed, the Ferguson judicial system has been assigned a state judge to supervise all court decisions. The US Department of Justice cited the system’s routine violations of constitutional rights, according to the New York Times, specifically highlighting Missouri’s municipal judge, Ronald J. Brockmeyer and accusing him of “abusive practices.” Coincidentally, as the news of this investigation surfaced, Brockmeyer resigned from the position, one he had held for more than 10 years. Also criticized in the federal report was John Shaw, Ferguson’s city manager. He was blamed for “overseeing the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination and questionable conduct by the police and courts in Ferguson”, according to the New York Times.
Although these changes are a major step in the fight for racial equality and have the potential to prevent further discrimination from occurring, it is important to notice just how long it took for them to be put in place. Michael Brown was shot to death on August 9, 2014 and ever since then, the event has caused debates, protests, and even riots. It became not just an American news story, but a worldwide one, that drew attention from people of all backgrounds due to the thought-provoking questions it raised. After the immense popularity the event gained and the surfacing of past claims of discriminatory police actions in Ferguson, it is shocking that only now these changes are being made. There is enough reasonable doubt to take either side on the debate of the innocence of Michael Brown, and for that reason these racial inequalities should have been thoroughly examined in a more timely manner. Despite how far the United States has come, racism is still a serious issue in this country; but what does the apathy with which this investigation was conducted say about the priority of racism in America? Is it still seen as a problem worthy of prompt legal action?
The Michael Brown case was a complex one that added to the worldwide discussion about race and how it influences our world. But only now, nearly nine months after Brown was shot, are we seeing concrete and substantial change being made to the judicial and federal system in Ferguson. Despite the widespread outrage caused by the shooting, which reappeared in November 2014 when Darren Wilson was not indicted and police department of Ferguson’s history of racial discrimination, racism in Ferguson was not thoroughly investigated until now. Although these changes are positive and important, the amount of time it took for them to actually happen might even be adding the problem they are trying to solve. Was the department finally investigated in order to resolve this issue, or just a way to quiet the critics and speculators? No one can say what the answer to that might be, but regardless of the motive, the investigation of racism in Ferguson was and still is a major issue that should have been addressed immediately after the Michael Brown shooting, rather than months after the case closed.