Members of the Congressional Black Caucus used an hour of so-called special orders on the House floor Monday night to draw attention to troubles confronting minorities across the U.S. with special attention paid to the recent unrest in Ferguson., Missouri.
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, opened his comments by saying the pain felt in Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown “has stirred the conscience of the nation and has forced us to confront some very difficult truths.”
Armed with a "laundry list of questions," U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will lead the Senate Homeland Security Committee Tuesday in a hearing to examine the militarization of local police departments. The hearing follows public outrage over what some saw as an excessive police response to protests in Ferguson following the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer.
Three different federal departments have programs to help local police departments acquire military-type hardware, including armored vehicles, and tactical gear and weapons.
After another night of looting, the union leader of the St. Louis County Police criticized the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s decision to respond to protests with a relaxed police presence.
“Even though they were very critical of the tactics used during the first four days, they are now using those same tactics once again,” Crocker said. “We have individuals who have been shot, officers who have been injured. People that have been assaulted and robbed.”
Armored cars, rubber bullets, riot shields and K-9 units have had a regular presence at demonstrations in Ferguson over the past week since a Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.
Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge in Ferguson and called for a softer tone in the police presence.
Many are wondering if the police went overboard in using force against the crowds that have gathered in Ferguson every evening since Brown's death.
Protesters are greeted by a wall of police officers after a march to the Ferguson police department on August 11, 2014. People are upset because of the Ferguson Police shooting and death of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. In all about 20 businesses sustained damage after a candlelight vigil turned violent.
The calls for greater representation of minorities in the region's law enforcement ranks have grown louder in the wake of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer. Protesters want to see more minorities especially in the police departments serving predominantly African-American communities.
Two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black, according to 2013 census records. But there are only three African Americans on the city’s 53-member police force. The city council is also predominantly white, as is the mayor.
Like many cities around the country, St. Louis is dealing with the ongoing problem of urban crime. Just over half-way through the year, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson says overall crime is down over 11 percent, and violent crime is down almost 6 percent. Overall crime in the city is down almost 50 percent since 2006.
“We have many fewer crimes now than we did just five years ago,” Dotson said Wednesday. With one noticeable exception.
Corey Allen, the assistant police chief in the small Metro East community of Centreville, has been indicted by a grand jury for making false statements to federal agents.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton says a federal grand jury found that Allen, 31, lied when he told investigators that he had not sold a gun to a convicted felon. The indictment alleges that Allen sold the felon, who has not been named, the gun in May, 2012.
The Supreme Court has rejected an Illinois prosecutor's plea to allow enforcement of a law aimed at stopping people from recording police officers on the job.
The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state's anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers. The law sets out a maximum prison term of 15 years.
St. Louis County started construction on a new crime lab this afternoon and police say the facility will speed up processing time.
Department spokesman, Randy Vaughn, says the extra space will also give them the room they need for additional technicians to help take on a backlog of evidence.
“This is also going to allow a separation of all the different types of forensics, chemistry, biology, our evidence custodians, our firearm custodians,” Vaughn says. “That is going to make a vast difference in making sure we don’t have any type of contamination issues.”