Two weeks ago, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt hailed the murder conviction of a former Dallas police officer who fatally shot her neighbor as a “huge victory” for “black people in America.” Today, Merritt is representing the family of Atatiana Jefferson, another black Texan gunned down at home by a white police officer, CNN reports. Almost every deadly police shooting seems to amplify the clamor for sweeping police reform that started after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot by a white Missouri police officer in August 2014. The road from Ferguson to Fort Worth is pitted from the fits and starts of reform and accountability. The police killings of civilians — many of them black and unarmed — remain unabated even as more than 30 states have passed dozens of laws on de-escalation and use of force.
A former Justice Department prosecutor who investigated the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department said the initial handling of the Fort Worth case keeps the prospect for change alive. “There are a few things about this incident that give me some hope that we have somehow managed to move forward in a positive direction but it is far from steady progress,” said Christy Lopez, who worked in the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama. After Ferguson, protests paved the way for improved training and stricter use-of-force policies in some agencies. Few officers were charged criminally, and fewer were convicted. What has changed since Ferguson? A scholar who tracks police shootings says not much. “I don’t feel like there’s been reform throughout policing in this country,” said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a former police officer. “Things are pretty much business as usual.”