|August 11, 2014. Ferguson.|
Chuck Wexler has been executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum for more than twenty years, and before that a Boston police official. He has worked on violence reduction and police tactics in Minneapolis, Chicago, Northern Ireland and Kingston, Jamaica. But he says he saw something altogether new when he was collecting information about police in the St. Louis region.
Wexler was at one of the many town-hall meetings that PERF arranged after the death of Michael Brown, for a study on the area commissioned by the local nonprofit Better Together. A woman stood up and told the story of how she was ticketed because her grass was too high. When she couldn't pay the ticket, a warrant went out for her arrest. She had to go to court to clear it up.
"I've never seen that happen in other places in the country, and that said something to me about the level of interference in people's lives," says Wexler. "Why would you have to go to court about the grass growing too high?"
After several of these town halls, focus groups and interviews with police chiefs as well as the rank-and-file, PERF made a series of recommendations for the region, which were released last week.
Perhaps the most contentious ones were about consolidating many small departments in north county. But Normandy police chief Frank Mininni thinks there's a chance that local cops will do some soul-searching rather than reject the recommendations outright.
"I think your professional departments and the ones who really do care about their communities, I think they're going to take this paper to heart," he says.More »