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Ferguson: Mistrust in criminal justice system formed by long history of discrimination

Ferguson events have made vivid how wide the gulf is between the police and those who are policed in our nation’s communities.

Should a state grand jury have indicted Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9? What’s publicly known, of course, suggests that there was probable cause to believe that a crime occurred. But we’re in no position to second-guess a group of citizens who have had access to much more information than we have had.

What we can say, however, is that the events in Ferguson have made vivid just how wide the gulf is between the police and those who are policed in so many communities in our country. It’s a gulf that’s been formed by the history of discrimination in our country, a gulf that has been deepened by the systemic biases in our current criminal justice system. It’s a gulf that breeds suspicion and mistrust, a gulf that undermines the very legitimacy of our system of justice.

A federal grand jury may yet indict Officer Wilson. Further, the Department of Justice may file a “pattern or practice” lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department. But until we reform the criminal justice system in our country and heal the racial wounds of the past, there will be more Fergusons. 

In the coming days, we hope that everyone listens to the plea of Michael Brown’s father for cooler heads to prevail.