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Ferguson Commission Report: Symbol Without Substance
9/30/2015 4:45:41 PM

Scene of fatal police shooting in Ferguson, MO. (MGN Online)
By Askia Muhammad, Special from The Final Call

FERGUSON, Mo. ( – It took 10 long, intense months of research which included hundreds of interviews, Department of Justice reports, marches, police killings and outside recommendations, in order for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s 16-member Ferguson Commission to issue a 198-page report entitled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity.”

The report outlined problems and possible strategies moving forward for Ferguson and the St. Louis area. But will the report yield systemic change? Will it end police brutality, racial profiling, poverty, excessive traffic stops and over incarceration of Blacks? The answer is no say many still seeking answers, and not a report they said lacks a realistic plan to change how police officers deal with a community they are supposed to protect and serve.

The report simply offers “more of the same,” said some analysts.

“I wouldn’t say it’s too little, too late. I would say it’s more of the same,” Dr. Wilmer Leon, a political scientist and host of “Inside the Issues,” heard on Sirius-XM radio told The Final Call.

“Whether it is (Dr. W.E.B.) DuBois in Philadelphia Negro, whether it’s Souls of Black Folk and ‘the problem of the 20th Century is the color line,’ or whether it is the Kerner Commission Report from the 1960s, they all state what we already know, and they state what is the obvious. It’s not a matter of reports, it’s a matter of when will America finally admit that it is a racist country, and that it has been since we arrived on these shores?”

A coalition of community organizers, law enforcement officers and an attorney came to Ferguson from Cincinnati to offer recommendations to the commission. Rev. Damon Lynch, president of the Cincinnati Black United Front, who is also Local Organizing Chair for Justice or Else!, Cincinnati Black United Front Project Manager Iris Roley, Attorney Alphonse A. Gerhardstein and two Cincinnati police officers offered the commission strategies for change.

“We filed a class action suit before the riots and unrest happened in Cincinnati and the key point here was to get all parties agreeing to do the work under some type of understanding before the suit was filed. We had to be on the same page and willing to go the distance for the betterment of the entire city or it wasn’t going to work,” attorney A.A. Gerhardstein said.

“We gathered data and researched the history of relationship between law enforcement and the community, policies, legislation and I walked around with beautifully bound binders and when we took action that forced their hands, the Cincinnati collaboration agreement was formed with the Cincinnati police department, Black United Front and ACLU to address the real issues facing the city. It was a battle but we were determined not to stop until we got answers and results and we have,” he added.

“I don’t see how you are going to get anything done without a judgment or it will be just another commission and no results,” the attorney continued. “The point is that most police feel they are doing the right thing because of the way they are trained. Until the system is changed from the inside you are just spinning your wheels and it will be meaningless.

“You have over 50 calls to action items and you will need to divide it into 17 different committees. I’m saying it’s going to be all uphill. We’ve been down this road and it’s going to take more community involvement to get the job done,” Mr. Gerhardstein said.

The 198-page report outlined areas of concern and initiatives that included revising “use of force” guidelines, ending the practice of issuing arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, eliminating incarceration for minor offenses, treating nonviolent offenses as civil violations, preventing conflicts of interest among judges and prosecutors, providing affordable housing, training for officers that cover policies for interactions with the lesbian and gay population, curbing predatory lending practices, job training and engaging the faith community in the racial equity mission.

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