The 16-person commission formed after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last year has released a wish list of reforms to address the underlying problems exposed by the unarmed teen’s death.
The Ferguson Commission released the 198-page report on Monday titled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity,” outlining police and court reform at the centerpiece of priorities to spur change.
“What we are pointing out is that the data suggests, time and time again, that our institutions and existing systems are not equal and that this has racial repercussions when it comes to law enforcement, the justice system, housing, health, education and income,” the report said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed the Ferguson Commission last November to examine the root causes that triggered weeks of unrest throughout the St. Louis region and spawned the nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement.
During a press conference presenting the report, Nixon thanked commission leaders for their “unflinching courage at a moment of reckoning.”
‘It was a flashpoint that ignited protest and soul-searching across our nation. But here in Missouri we listened, we learned from one another, and we’re getting better,” Nixon said.
In it’s report, the commission calls for specific reforms to police policies and training, establishing clear use-of-force protocols while calling to draw down the heavily militarized weaponry used at the height of demonstrations last year. It goes after court reform and asks for changes to sentencing on minor offences. Community based calls to action address health, economic mobility and education.
“The report explores and attempts to address the social conditions and inequities that young people across the region have raised, and other collective voices in our region that they live and struggle with these inequities every day,” commission co-chair Rich McClure said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
It is just the latest report to provide historic context of the racial tensions in the region and chart a path forward. The Department of Justice has also released a pair of scathing reports in the last year, condemning a pattern of racist policing and tactics amid the protests that only exacerbated the unrest.
The commission’s power and authority, however, is fairly limited. The points of action raised are a set of priorities for the community, not formal recommendations or policy proposals. The commissioners in many cases are not lawmakers or policy experts, and they themselves are unable to enact the measures.
“This was tough. The only promise we can make the region is that it gets tougher,” said Rev. Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission. “If we are clear about accountability, if we are serious about racial equity, if we will pursue justice for all if, we place youth at the center of all of our conversations and if we really do want all to have an opportunity to thrive, it gets tough.”
Meanwhile, the state legislature’s record on enacting reform in the last year has been mixed. Legislators were able to pass a bill to cap the amount that municipal courts could impose fines and fees on residents in order to generate new revenue. But bills introduced to require body cameras and update use-of-force standards in policing failed to gain traction.