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As Justice Dept. Continues to Probe Ferguson Police, Missouri Governor Appoints Commission To Study What Is Wrong In Ferguson

Left to Right: Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon, Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure

Left to Right: Gov. Jay Nixon appoints Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure to lead Ferguson commission.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has appointed a diverse panel of 16 prominent individuals to serve on a commission created to examine the issues surrounding the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the aftermath.

The panel was announced Tuesday, just a day after Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard as the city and the nation await the grand jury’s decision to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot and killed Brown.

Local authorities in Missouri are nearing the end of their investigation of the shooting and a broader federal civil rights review could lead to reforms in the police department, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which has been investigating the Ferguson police department’s practices for more than two months, is focusing on use-of-force, stop and searches and patterns of discrimination.

“If the end goal of this is to ensure that no one’s civil rights get violated, that everyone is treated decently and their constitutional rights are protected, the best thing that can come out of this is an overall look at the department,” David Weinstein, a former civil rights prosecutor in Miami, told The AP.

As the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder has made civil rights a priority. In the past five years, the Justice Department has investigated 20 police departments for incidents including dealing with the mentally ill, high numbers of officer-involved shootings, excessive force and racial bias. Police departments in Albuquerque, Detroit, Seattle and New Orleans have agreed to reforms after probes by the Justice Department.

Last year, a report by the Missouri attorney general’s office found that Ferguson police stopped and arrested Black drivers nearly twice as often as whites, but were less likely to find contraband among the Black drivers.

As for the governor’s Ferguson commission, the group will be led by Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure. Wilson, who is African-American, is president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation and pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in St. Louis. McClure, who is white, is chairman of the St. Louis Regional Board of Teach for America, former president of UniGroup Inc. and of Civic Progress. McClure also served as the chief of staff to former Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft.

Nixon said the commission’s job is to conduct a “thorough, wide-ranging and unflinching study” of the underlying social and economic conditions underscored by the sometimes violent protests. The panel must create a report with recommendations by Sept. 15, 2015.

The panel consists of five Black men, four Black women, five white men and two white women, according to USA Today.

The grand jury decision is expected to be released this month. Nixon’s emergency order instructs the St. Louis County Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol and local police departments to work together to keep the peace.

He also directed the police “to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the city of Ferguson and the St. Louis region.”

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