How to Make Black Lives Matter

Five months before Michael Brown’s death, African-American students at his St. Louis high school gave one educator a striking lesson in the importance of empowering role models. The national debate since then continues to miss the point.


Want the Public to Trust Police? Try Transparency

One year after the release of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, it is difficult to overstate the importance of transparency for institutions that have been largely opaque, such as major city law enforcement agencies across the country.

archive archive

When Policing Goes Wrong

Since 1994, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has investigated and reached settlements with more than 20 state and local police agencies. Much controversy surrounds these so-called “consent decrees,” which have mandated reforms of police practices in agencies ranging from the municipal forces of Los Angeles, New Orleans and Albuquerque, to state agencies like the New Jersey State Police. Investigations of Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD are currently underway. Do these consent decrees actually reduce officer use-of-force and racial profiling? Have […]


The Media After Ferguson: Still Ignoring the Failures

The Justice Department’s twin reports on Ferguson this March raised two disturbing questions about the media. • How did so many news organizations fail for so long to realize that “Hands Up, Don't Shoot” was a myth? • How did so many news organizations fail for so many years to uncover deeply unconstitutional police and court practices? One hopes those questions would prompt soul-searching. For the most part, they haven't. The national media are on to the next police shooting […]


One Year on, Ferguson Protesters Don't Plan to Go Away

Photo by Loavesofbread, via Wikipedia When St. Louis resident Tory Russell saw Michael Brown's body last August 9, it set in motion a series of events that altered his life. An African-American day laborer who was working in a suburb five miles from Ferguson, the 31-year-old Russell had seen a photo a few minutes after Brown was shot, tweeted by one of Brown's neighbors. It showed Brown dead in the street. Two hours later came another: Brown's body was still […]


Report: CA Traffic Fines Drive Inequality

More than four million Californians have lost their licenses due to the inability to pay punitive fees and court fines, according to a new report by several legal aid and civil rights groups. The report comes on the heels of a widely publicized Department of Justice inquiry into the practices of the police department and municipal court in Ferguson, Mo., which found the city’s policies are shaped with revenue in mind, rather than public safety. In California, initial citations stem […]


What Meaningful Grand Jury Reform Should Cover

The Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases focused attention on police departments and their relationships with the minority communities that they serve. After the police officers involved in those incidents were not indicted on criminal charges, those cases also drew attention to the grand jury process. In response to this attention, the St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch chose to release redacted transcripts of testimony and other evidence heard by the grand jurors, who refused to indict Officer Darren […]


DOJ Finds “Implicit and Explicit” Racial Bias in Ferguson

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice has found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department, Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday, as the DOJ released a scathing report depicting a local police and court system in need of dramatic overhaul. “Our review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias,” Holder said during a news conference yesterday. Holder said […]


Was the Ferguson Grand Jury Misled?

As I've previously written here, I think the St. Louis County grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Ferguson was probably correct. The forensic evidence tended to corroborate Wilson's version of events and to conflict with that of Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown's friend, who was the other principal eyewitness. But there's one lingering question still nagging at me and other commentators: the possibility that the grand jury was misinstructed on the law […]