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It’s Been Six Years Since the Death of Michael Brown. What’s Changed Since Then and What Hasn’t?

Maria Perez
Aug 9, 2020 - 12:20

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On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by white Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death sparked protesters across Missouri and the rest of the world to demand justice for the unarmed Black teenager.

Six years later, Black Americans and their allies have been fighting to end police brutality and systematic racism following the senseless deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and so many other Black Americans.

Changes Made in Ferguson Since Brown’s Death

In 2015, a Department of Justice Investigation into the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) found that the FPD repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of Black Americans living in the city with police stops, Vox reported. The report stated that officers used fines and traffic tickets to generate money for the city. A year later, the city accepted the consent decree from the police department, which stated that the FPD would enact reforms, NPR reported.

In June, the city elected its first Black mayor. Ella Jones is the first Black woman elected to run the city, securing 54 percent of the vote against her opponent, Heather Robinett, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Changes Still Needed

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell declined to charge Wilson with Brown’s death, BuzzFeed News reported in July. Although the case was reopened, Bell said he spent five months reviewing the case but found that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against the former FPD officer. Wilson was acquitted of criminal charges by a grand jury in November 2014. This is the third time this case has been reviewed.

In an interview with The Associated Press (AP), Bell said legislators need to change laws that protect the prosecution of police officers–also known as qualified immunity. Lawmakers currently don’t plan to introduce any laws that would address qualified immunity.

“We see those types of laws throughout the country, and it is something that handcuffs prosecutors in numerous ways when you are going about prosecuting officers who have committed unlawful use of force or police shootings,” Bell told the AP.

In June, Democrats introduced a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to report use-of-force data following the death of Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. The bill would reduce protections for police officers who are accused of misconduct, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter activists and demonstrators continue to protest police brutality and systematic racism years after Brown’s death. On August 8, social justice organization Until Freedom rallied in Louisville, Kentucky, to honor Brown and Taylor, who was shot and killed by police while she was sleeping in her apartment in March. 
“This isn’t just a one-time event or action,” Angelo Pinto, one of the co-founders of the organization, told The Courier-Journal. “This will be a long-term strategy until we’re able to procure justice and accountability. We believe in it that much.”

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