A report released on Monday by the commission appointed to study the racial divide and the unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, advised that police reduce their use of military-style tactics and weapons.
The 198-page report, titled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity,” was released by the 16-member commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and includes 189 policy “calls to action” for police.
The commission was assembled after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Aug. 2014, sparked protests throughout the community. Police responded to those protests with military-style tactics and equipment.
The protests turned into riots, and the response from police, along with a scathing report from the Department of Justice, highlighted the racial divide in the St. Louis suburb, and the discriminatory practices exercised by local police against the black community.
The report suggested that the state be directed “to cease providing, and local departments to cease using, militarized weaponry that does not align with a use of force continuum that authorizes only the minimal amount of force necessary.”
According to the report, departments across the state also need to “revise use of force policies and training to prioritize de-escalation and to clarify the instances when officers should engage in tactical withdrawal.”
“The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust, and making community safety even more difficult,” the report noted.
In addition to recommendations about police tactics, the report also advised that the state increase the minimum wage from $7.65 per hour, expand eligibility for Medicaid and merge the 60 police forces and 81 municipal courts that cover the St. Louis area.
The Ferguson Commission’s report has been met with skepticism by Missouri residents such as John Parker, who runs a public relations firm in the area. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he sees the commission as a way for Nixon to “save face.”
“The governor put this commission together to save face on race relations in this city,” Parker said. “If you actually want to effect change, you effect change. Change is not putting commission members together to discuss what everybody already knows. That’s a waste of time.”
Investigative journalist Ben Swann looked at the root of America’s current problem with the militarization of police in communities including Ferguson in an episode of Truth In Media in Dec. 2014: