Week in review: Reckonings, in Ferguson and in politics
We know that you listen to us on air and check our website for news and information about our region. We hope that you look at our website every day, but we know that's not always possible. So, once a week, on Friday, we will highlight some of the website's top stories of the week.
A reckoning in Ferguson...
The Justice Department has neither the authority nor the staffing to expand its investigation of unconstitutional police and court practices from Ferguson to surrounding municipalities, legal experts say. But that doesn’t mean that the Justice Department is powerless. Nor is the Justice Department the only player that could bring about change.
The Ferguson police department and municipal court engaged in such a widespread pattern of unconstitutional conduct that it lost the trust of the people, the Justice Department concluded after a seven-month investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder called the report “searing.” It was full of accounts of blatant police and municipal court abuse of citizens, particularly African Americans.
The U.S. Justice Department’s report into the fatal of shooting of Michael Brown by then-police officer Darren Wilson makes two basic findings: investigators were not convinced that Wilson committed a federal crime; and that even if they were to indict Wilson, they didn’t believe they would be able to win at trial. The report differs in significant respects from some previously widely circulated accounts. In particular, it finds that despite popular belief, Brown did not have his hands up in a position of surrender when he was shot.
The federal civil rights case that the Justice Department is unveiling against the Ferguson Police Department offers the town great opportunities but also poses substantial costs and risks. On the plus side, the investigation lays out a roadmap for fixing unconstitutional police practices that have resulted in a disproportionate percentage of blacks being stopped and locked up by police. In a number of cities, the Justice Department’s pressure to reform policing has been a factor in rebuilding trust between the police and the community after fatal police shootings.
While many businesses damaged during Ferguson-related protests have received help, their experiences and prospects for full recovery vary by neighborhood. Recovery efforts may not be enough in Ferguson and Dellwood, which sustained most of the damage after the grand jury decision. Some see a need for a much broader effort to save a once-promising business corridor from taking a turn for the worse.
... and in state politics
Retired U.S. Sen. John Danforth is blaming Missouri’s nasty political climate – and an alleged anti-Semitic “whispering campaign” -- for state Auditor Tom Schweich’s suicide, and he is calling on officials in both parties to “make Tom’s death a turning point in our state.” Danforth lamented what called a climate “where politics is only for the tough, the crude and the calloused.” He spoke at Schweich's funeral on Tuesday.
A recent report singled out three local school districts -- Riverview Gardens, Normandy and St. Louis Public Schools -- as being in the top 10 nationally for problems with student discipline. Officials with all three districts say that challenges remain but progress has been made to ensure school discipline policies are fair to all students, regardless of race. And while no single approach can close the discipline gap, many think helping educators recognize their own biases and improving teacher training are good places to start.
Enter stage left
Ever thought about trying out for America's oldest, largest outdoor theater? Each year, the 98-year-old St. Louis Muny holds open auditions; anyone can come. Singers and dancers try out on different weekends. Males and females audition separately. For 18-year-old Lydia Berry, a recent audition was a chance to see if she’s ready for the professional dance world.
Selfie sticks. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here; and they seem to be getting more popular. Representatives from St. Louis’ major arts and culture institutions say they’re keeping a close eye on selfie sticks, but so far, they haven’t been a problem.