Independent Prosecutors May Be Necessary to Remedy Unrest, Distrust
By: Brittany Davila
Student Writer for The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, Volume 18
The report stated, “Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias, including stereotyping. The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”
The report went on to advocate that Ferguson replace “revenue-driven policing” with a new system that would require “community policing” and “police legitimacy.”
The death of Michael Brown occurred seven months ago, and there are still unfettered unrest and discord in Ferguson, Missouri. The report was released eight days before another shooting occurred in Ferguson, which allegedly involved a 20-year-old man shooting at two police officers.
Although the DOJ’s report involved an in-depth analysis of the Ferguson Police Department when creating its recommendations, there may be a more innovative solution to the issues occurring in Ferguson and other parts of the country: independent prosecutors.
The concept of independent prosecutors have not been implemented in the United States, but the idea has been gaining wider circulation since the upheaval in Ferguson. Independent prosecutors would be an independent agency outside traditional state and county jurisdictions. These independent prosecutors would be responsible for prosecuting crimes which allegedly involved law enforcement officers or occurred within law enforcement agencies.
There is an undeniable relationship between law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys: Prosecutors must rely on the information officers give them and officers rely on prosecutors to administer justice. However, when the law enforcement officer is being tried by the prosecutor, whether or not there is any unprofessional bias, the public will question the validity of the outcome; this was the case in Ferguson.
According to the DOJ report, there has been distrust between the people of Ferguson and the law enforcement department for some time, and the death of Michael Brown was the flame which ignited the tinder box. Although the suggestions for reform advocated by the DOJ has potential, it would require a lot of time and resources to implement and may not ultimately cure the public’s trust.
The implementation of an independent prosecutor is a challenging suggestion, but one which should be considered. The issues which arose in Ferguson will continue to occur if not properly addressed. The implementation of an independent prosecutor would by a long term solution to remedy the public’s trust in our justice system.