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D.C. Reporter: How Ferguson Is Playing Out In The Capital

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jim Howard

Events in Ferguson are drawing the attention of lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think the issues that have been raised by the incidents in Ferguson and the continuing unrest are going away anytime soon, and those issues really don’t start with Ferguson,” said Jim Howard, St. Louis Public Radio’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

“Certainly for us at home in St. Louis … it was a searing moment, clearly covered in the media in an ongoing way and on social media with some of the ongoing unrest that we see streamed or tweeted or talked about on Facebook, but it was almost a year before Michael Brown was shot that Attorney General (Eric) Holder stood in front of an international collection of police chiefs in Philadelphia and said that we need to bridge this gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

That relationship continues to draw attention. On Sept. 9, a month after Brown was killed in Ferguson, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on how local police departments obtain surplus and unused military equipment, like the St. Louis County Police Department vehicles seen in Ferguson.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the Defense Logistics Agency described 36 percent of its surplus property as new and unused. “What in the world are we doing buying things that we’re not using?” McCaskill asked.

“That was probably the biggest, highest profile thing (related to Ferguson) that took place in front of the cameras on Capitol Hill,” Howard said. “But just last week, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held its 44th annual legislative conference, and the events in Ferguson and Michael Brown were mentioned frequently and prominently in a number of panel discussions.”

The Department of Justice also is involved in the Brown investigation. On Sept. 23, the department launched an effort to establish trust between the police and community.

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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