Federal civil rights charges were never likely in the Ferguson, Mo., case.
This isn’t a setback for justice. It’s part of the process.
Understandably, some people may be disappointed that the FBI probe didn’t find the evidence to recommend charges to the U.S. Justice Department. But the facts had to meet a different, and arguably a higher, standard than even the St. Louis County prosecutors faced in the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
The federal charges needed evidence that Wilson shot Brown with the intention of violating the teenager’s rights, or that he did so willfully. That means peeking into someone’s mind.
Weighed for its totality, the saga of Ferguson can help the nation more than it has caused harm. No one should conclude that the (mostly) peaceful protests, the town halls, the many dinner table conversations — even those that turned into shouting matches — were for naught. We are a better nation because of the issues that have been raised.
Time can allow for us to peel back from our knee-jerk responses, to keep from seeing Ferguson in simplistic terms — if we are willing.
Surely, many people have now considered video from other cases demonstrating how the tone of an officer, along with his or her actions, can escalate a confrontation or defuse it. Often there is a choice. Just as there are often choices to be made by the citizen in response.
We’ve seen now how the heavy use of traffic fines can put police in the position of tax collectors, chasing down residents to fill city coffers, unnecessarily building animosity. And more people have been forced to consider that even an unarmed person can be a lethal threat, especially if officers think their guns are about to be turned on them.
Along with word of the probable Justice Department decision, police released video footage of nearly 200 looters who broke into a St. Louis area store in late November. In a despicable disregard for the owner, they streamed in after the grand jury decision not to file charges against the officer. Identifying looters, prosecuting them if possible, also needs to happen.
Committing crimes and attacking property should never be a response to the violence that came in the form of Brown’s shooting death last August. That lesson needs to be made too.
It’s all part of the aftermath that will determine if sustainable good comes from Ferguson.