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Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Winter 2018, Vol. 18, Issue 1

PROSECUTORS, POLICE, AND GRAND JURIES: HOW SB 227 FALLS SHORT

By Hayden Thomas*

I. Introduction

Nearly every person in America knows the names of at least a few Black individuals killed by police in recent years. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Just to name a few. Many also know the names of some of the officers responsible for their deaths. Darren Wilson. Daniel Pantaeleo. What we don’t know is why this keeps happening or what to do about it. Is it the implicit bias of police officers? Is it an over-policing of minority communities? Is it under-policing of minority communities? Is it a lack of accountability for "bad apple" police officers? A lack of adequate training?

It is likely some combination of these factors and others. A sliver of hope emanating from this vast universe of tragedy is that some elected officials are attempting to devise real solutions to these problems. The Department of Justice issued its Ferguson Report in March of 2015, seven months after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.1 The report uncovered a broad array of systemic practices in Ferguson, Missouri, including a revenue-based policing system perpetrated through the violation of citizens’, particularly Blacks’, constitutional rights. The report found that these violations spread beyond the police department and into the court system and the top brass of the local government.2 These practices are not limited to Ferguson, MO, however. "Broken window" policing programs have been used in many of the 18,000 police departments around the country. While these troubling untruths have been discovered, a major complaint is how slow police departments have been to reform their practices. It took a year for Ferguson to agree to the proposed changes from the DOJ and even then, the city was only willing to comply when the Justice Department agreed that it would help ensure that the reforms didn’t cripple the city’s economy.3

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