[Sunday], I preached at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. This was the same church where I delivered the eulogy for Michael Brown, the unarmed Black teenager killed by police officer Darren Wilson. In the front row sat his mother and father, just as they sat in the front row during his funeral. I addressed the congregants and the community this weekend after a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, and after he announced his resignation from the Ferguson police department (who say he will not receive a severance). As I stated then, the issue is not Wilson’s job; the issue is justice for Brown, and the fact that a grand jury was used more as a trial jury to give a view on guilt or innocence rather than to see if there was a basis for a trial. In my view, the prosecutor was so determined not to move forward with this case that he misused a grand jury and therefore dealt a setback as to how we deal with police accountability in this country. Even Supreme Court Justice Scalia has been clear on what a grand jury is and is not. As I said in my sermon, and as I will say in the White House meeting today, there must be sustained nonviolent protest because we are still grappling with the very real issue of police misconduct and fairness within the criminal justice system. And until there is substantive federal oversight, we will not stop marching and raising our voices.
The issue of police brutality is nothing new. I have been dealing with case after case for decades, listening as mothers and fathers bury their young and search for answers as to how those hired to protect and serve instead ended their child’s life. Let me be clear, as I have said repeatedly, I do not believe that all police officers are bad; nor do I believe that most are bad. But there must be a transparent, impartial and fair system to judge those that engage in criminal or unethical acts. Local prosecutors work alongside local police officers on a regular basis and are therefore conflicted when it comes to prosecuting those same officers. They are under extreme pressure from local police unions and from rank-and-file cops. The Justice Department must set up an apparatus to protect citizens from this mechanism that fails to protect them and their civil rights.
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