OPINION: The Ferguson decision calls for more police oversight

Farren Vaughan

On Monday, Nov. 24, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced that the Missouri grand jury had decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Michael Brown did not deserve to die. Black lives matter.

The grand jury wasn’t deciding if Officer Wilson was responsible for the death of Brown. McCullough acknowledged that “on August 9, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson.” That part is a fact. The grand jury was responsible for deciding whether or not they should indict Officer Wilson. When grand juries indict, which almost always happens, it means “there is probable cause to suspect a crime has been committed by the accused. They are not required to conclude ultimate guilt. They’re just a way station on the route to a public trial,” according to local attorney Joe Dunman. Choosing whether or not to indict is choosing whether or not to continue legal proceedings. The jury will not indict if they have reasonable doubt that there is not enough evidence to do so.

One of the problems evident in the Ferguson decision is that the jury felt there wasn’t enough evidence to bring a guilty man to trial. There is not enough evidence because there is a lack of oversight and surveillance for police officers.

This lack could be fulfilled by requiring police officers to wear cameras on their uniform. The police in our country operate under a public institution: the government. These recordings could and should be public records.

According to Supreme Court rulings in the 1980s, police officers are legally permitted to shoot to kill as long as they feel that their life is in immediate peril. Officer Wilson justifies that he was in immediate peril; regardless, there should have been more oversight and camera footage for the jury examine so it can decide if the killing was right and justified.

The best way to proactively move forward from the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death is to make sure that the public is holding police officers more accountable for their actions. This is so that juries can have undoubtable, tangible evidence. So that an undisputable digital account of happenings can be juxtaposed with the laws and guidelines for police officers. So we can keep accountable those sworn to protect the public. And so that this country will never again see a dead, unarmed teenager paired with the responsible, armed police officer that fails to be indicted theoretically because the jury doesn’t have enough evidence.