Rights Groups Call for Openness in Brown Case
Stacy Anderson / Associated Press August 19, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) – More than a dozen civil and human rights groups are appealing for openness in the investigation of the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Members of the coalition, including the ACLU and National Bar Association, have filed lawsuits seeking the incident report in the shooting of Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.
The Justice Department has launched an independent investigation into the case.
The National Bar Association, a national network mainly of black lawyers and judges, filed a lawsuit this week claiming the Ferguson Police Department is in violation of the state open-records law for not releasing reports, videos and photos about the Aug. 9 shooting. It also seeks records related to the police officer.
The ACLU has also filed two lawsuits requesting copies of incident reports from both the Ferguson Police Department and St. Louis County.
The group wants Justice Department officials to prepare reports on police killings, police training, police oversight, racial profiling of minorities and youth, and police policies such as “stop-and-frisk.”
“We continue to look in dismay at the lack of a release by the Ferguson Police Department of the incident report, a public record that is required by law to be available to the public,” Lawyers’ Committee President Barbara Arnwine said in a briefing. “There’s no explanation, no excuse for the lack of that release.”
The group has recommended that dashboard cameras be mandatory in police cars, that police officers wear body cameras, and that a law enforcement commission be created to review police tactics.
Calls for requests for comment from St. Louis County Police were not returned.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson did release the officer’s name last week, as well as police reports and surveillance video from a convenience store robbery in which Brown was a suspect. It drew further community outcry over the incident.
Janai Nelson of the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund said the police response to the shooting death has been uncoordinated and led the community to distrust police and public officials.
“What is of grave concern to the Legal Defense Fund is the absence of state and local leadership at nearly every level of the investigation of incident,” Nelson said. “We call on Ferguson to lead. We call on the elected officials of Ferguson to engage with members of their community to ensure them that the investigation into Michael Brown’s death will be fair and just.”
The civil and human rights organizations have long-term goals to push for reform of the criminal justice system and federal police oversight, as well as increasing minority voting.