As tensions escalate due to leaks from an ongoing grand jury investigation, the global human rights organization Amnesty International on Friday condemned the police response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August and law enforcement’s handling of massive protests that erupted in the aftermath of the unarmed teenager’s death.
The organization also urged a number of local and nationwide law-enforcement reforms, including curbs on the use of racial profiling and a national database of fatal police shootings of civilians. It also pressed support of a bipartisan Congressional effort to get surplus military weaponry out of the hands of local law enforcement.
Amnesty has released its findings into Brown’s death amid concerns of widespread, potentially violent protests if Darren Wilson – the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager – is not criminally charged. Among Amnesty’s conclusions: that Wilson’s use of lethal force was questionable, that more accountability in the case of police shootings is necessary, and that tactics law enforcement used in clashes with demonstrators protesting Brown’s death included human rights violations.
A secret grand jury is currently convening to determine whether Wilson should be criminally charged for Brown’s death, and is expected to announce its conclusions next month. However leaks from the investigation this week – including the official autopsy report and new details from Wilson’s version of events- have drawn the condemnation of the Department of Justice, which condemned them as “an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”
Regardless of how the Brown investigation concludes, Amnesty found fault in policies brought to the light in the wake of Brown’s shooting, including reports of discriminatory policing practices across the country, as well as the lack of a national database documenting civilians shot to death by police.
“We don’t have the basic instruments in place for the federal government to have its handle on whether there are patterns of behavior that need to be investigated or if some areas of the country are prone to citizens dying at the hands of police shootings,” Hawkins says. “Some of us may have our own suspicions that it is more prevalent in urban areas. What is interesting about Ferguson is that it’s outside of St. Louis.”
Much of the report, however, focuses on how officials in Ferguson handled the protests.
Relying on both witness and media accounts, as well as its staff’s own observations — the report details specific incidents where police manhandled Amnesty staffers — the human rights organization blasted law enforcement tactics including the widespread use of tear gas and high-decibel sound machines as well as officers armed with combat-grade assault weapons and rubber bullets. It also criticized the intimidation and arrest of journalists.
“What Ferguson revealed was the lack of local police training in terms of how to effectively deal with a crowd,” Hawkins says. “Giving the police military weapons for basic crowd control is something that Congress really needs to examine.”
Source/ U.S. News