Tensions rise in Ferguson with shootings of two police officers


Jamelle Bouie via Flickr Creative Commons

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson was asked to take over policing of Ferguson, as a tactical shift to reduce the violence

Becca Garner, Staff Writer

Two police officers were shot in the middle of riots in Ferguson, Missouri on Thursday morning.

Both officers sustained severe wounds but were not in critical condition. On March 16, 2015, Jeffrey Williams came forward admitting he fired the two shots that hit the officers; however he denied that he was aiming for them, according to the CNN website.

Following CNN’s report, 20-year-old Williams has been charged with two counts of first-degree assault, a count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, and three counts of armed criminal activity.

The riots were a response to the announcement that Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson will be resigning, following the resignation of City Manager John Shaw, tendered last week.

Jackson and Shaw’s withdrawals from public service were prompted by the Justice Department’s official report, which cleared Police Officer Darren Wilson of civil rights violation charges in the shooting of Michael Brown last August, but told of a “pattern of unconstitutional policing” within the department, according to the NPR website.

“If people are realizing the problems and taking steps to fix it, that’s a start to a change that can hopefully be made,” said senior Aniles DeVoe.

In addition to finding that Ferguson’s police and court systems functioned as a revenue generator, funding nearly a quarter of the city’s budget, the Justice Department’s report also found a severe racial bias against the city’s black population.

DeVoe said she understands the discontent, however, “if you look at the Civil Rights Movement, blacks won their rights in a nonviolent way.”

“If people really want to change something, they’ll protest in a peaceful manner,” said DeVoe.

From 2012-2014, 93 percent of all arrests made by the police department were of African-Americans, despite the city being about two-thirds black. In the same time frame, 90 percent of all documented use of force instances by the FPD were against African-Americans.

Social studies teacher Karen Ramroth said that while the Justice Department’s findings are symptomatic of structural problems within the nation, “violence is not the answer to these systemic issues.”

“Those police officers should not have been shot,” said Ramroth.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Holder was adamant that the racial discrimination present in Ferguson is unacceptable in the 21st century.

“It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said in a news conference after the report was released.