Two officers are shot in Ferguson overnight
Police Chief Thomas Jackson's resignation is effective March 19
Protesters want the entire department gutted and for the mayor to resign
Ferguson’s police chief is gone. So is the city manager. And the top court clerk was fired for sending racist emails.
But are these high-level changes enough to satisfy all residents? Absolutely not, they say.
Protesters amassed in front of the Ferguson Police Department on Wednesday night, demanding the entire force be disbanded and calling for Mayor James Knowles to step down.
“Racist cops have got to go,” some chanted. “The people, united, will never be defeated,” others said.
Amid the protests, two officers were shot – one in the face, the other in the shoulder. They were hospitalized in serious condition, and it’s not clear who the shooter was.
So what will it take to calm Ferguson?
Disbanding the police department?
DeRay McKesson told CNN that protesters want the entire police department dissolved.
McKesson was part of a group that appeared to be the largest crowd since November when a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The killing was the spark that started a national wildfire of dialogue about police brutality.
Many have decried rampant racism within the Ferguson Police Department. And a scathing 102-page Justice Department report backed up some of their claims – citing widespread and systemic discrimination against blacks, including targeting them disproportionately for tickets.
On Wednesday, Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced he’s stepping down, effective March 19. He’ll still get one year’s worth of pay and insurance.
CNN legal analyst Mark O’Mara said the entire department needs to be gutted.
“The Department of Justice report revealing unquestionable racist bias that permeated the entire department cannot be ignored, and the problems it reveals cannot be fixed from the inside,” O’Mara wrote.
“If there are a few good cops in the Ferguson Police Department, they need to leave, and they need to go elsewhere to continue their proud law enforcement career without being overshadowed by their involvement in a poisoned organization.”
But city officials believe the police department can be reformed without being eliminated, the mayor told reporters.
“We continue to go through that report and talk about where the breakdown was,” Knowles said.
“The city of Ferguson looks to become an example of how a community can move forward in the face of adversity,” he added. “We are committed to keeping our police department and having one that exhibits the highest degree of professionalism and fairness.”
Charges against Darren Wilson?
Even if protesters get their wishes – the resignation of Knowles and the disbanding of the police department – they still won’t get what they originally wanted: charges against Wilson.
A local grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in November for the shooting death of Brown, who died August 9. The Justice Department launched its own investigation to see if there were any federal civil rights violations.
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety” when he shot Brown, the Justice Department report said.
Wilson resigned from the police department in November, citing security concerns. But he remains a controversial figure in Ferguson.
When resident Sue Schmidt defended Wilson at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, she heard vocal objections from the crowd.
“I’d like to say a lot of people in this room owe Darren Wilson an apology,” Schmidt said, prompting laughter by some in the audience. “The same Justice report that you’re basing all your opinions on cleared him 100%.”
More heads to roll, including the mayor’s?
It’s not clear who else may resign or get fired after the critical Justice Department report, which said Ferguson operated a vertically integrated system – from street cop to court clerk to judge to city administration and City Council – to raise revenue through increased ticketing and fining.
The investigators also found evidence of racist jokes being sent around by Ferguson police and court officials.
One November 2008 email said President Barack Obama wouldn’t likely be President for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another email joked that African-American women should use abortion to control crime.
“Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined,” the Justice Department’s report said.
After the report came out, the city’s top court clerk was fired for sending racist emails, and two others were being investigated, the mayor said.
But the mayor hasn’t resigned – to the ire of many protesters Wednesday night.
“You got rid of Jackson, but we want Knowles” gone, protester Kayla Reed said.
Knowles said other reforms are already underway in an attempt to “move this city, its residents and our entire community forward.”
But the community is clearly at odds about how to move forward.