5 things that could happen after Ferguson grand jury decision

World Today

Protesters stand in front of the Gateway Arch as they demonstrate in downtown St. Louis on Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Protestors in Ferguson, Mo., and around the nation continue to hold demonstrations following Monday’s decision by a St. Louis County, Mo., grand jury not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson for the August killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

While the county’s prosecuting attorney will not be pursuing a case against the officer, other investigations are still underway, and a civil suit by Brown’s family against Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department is real possibility. Beyond this case, there are also nationwide efforts to increase communication between police forces and the public. Here’s what could happen next:

1. Federal Investigations into Officer Wilson

The U.S. Justice Department is currently investigating the shooting of Brown for possible civil rights violations including committing a hate crime. This investigation focuses on finding out whether Officer Wilson willfully deprived Brown of his civil rights, a very difficult burden to meet. Other past high-profile police shootings, including the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo in New York City, did not result in federal prosecutions. View a list of case summaries of recent DOJ investigations into hate crimes.

2. Federal Investigations into Ferguson Police Department

The Justice Department is also conducting separate more wide-reaching, and potentially longer, investigation into the practices at the entire Ferguson Police Department looking into police stops, searches and arrests for patterns of discrimination within the overwhelmingly white department. The DOJ could require major changes in policing methods in Ferguson, after talking to community members and analyzing policing data.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section has initiated roughly 20 investigations of troubled police departments in the past five years, or more than twice the number undertaken in the five years before that. View a list of case summaries of recent investigations into local police departments.

Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has said he expects the federal investigation into the shooting to be concluded before he leaves office.

3. Civil Lawsuit by Michael Brown’s family

Michael Brown’s family will likely pursue a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against Officer Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department. One of the attorneys representing the Brown family, Benjamin Crump said in a news conference Tuesday that they were “considering all options.”

Unlike a criminal trial, where guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil trial, jurors must only consider if there is a “preponderance of the evidence” against Wilson or the Ferguson Police Department.

After neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin in 2013, Martin’s parents filed and settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the homeowners association of the housing complex where Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon. Following the 1992 acquittal of white police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King also sued the city of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million in damages.

4. Increased Police Training across U.S.

In September, Attorney General Holder launched the National Initiative for Building Communities of Trust and Justice initiative that would spend $4.75 on training police officers and communities on “bias reduction and procedural fairness”, policy development, and research including establishing five pilot sites in the U.S. to “apply evidence-based strategies.”

Following the unrest in Ferguson after the grand jury decision, Holder also said the Brown he case underscored a need to develop and widely disseminate “law enforcement best practices” for responding to public demonstrations.

The Department of Justice has begun this work and will continue to work with communities around the country, he said.

“This isn’t just about talking,” Holder said. “We want to ensure that concrete steps are taken to address these underlying barriers to trust.”

“The reality is that what we see in Ferguson is not restricted to Ferguson. There are other communities around this country that have these same issues that have to be dealt with and we at the Justice Department are determined to do all that we can to bridge those divides.”
[flagallery gid=44]

5. Community Healing in Ferguson and beyond

In October, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he was creating a Ferguson Commission made up of 16 members of the community to address underlying social and economic conditions in the community.

The report will be “wide-ranging” and “unflinching” and will address issues including poverty, education, governance and law enforcement, Nixon said.

The commission is expected to make recommendations in a report due next September that would make the region “a stronger, fairer place for everyone to live,” Nixon said.

Following the grand jury ruling, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the situation in Ferguson is mirrored throughout the United States.

“The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates,” Obama said.

“We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.”

Story compiled with information from CCTV-America and AP reports.