As the nation anticipates the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, on whether there is probable cause to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for having committed a crime in the killing of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, the issue of police accountability does not vary.
Alleged use of excessive force and misconduct by police against its citizens is now widespread nationally. And the burden for prosecutors—and grand juries comprised of citizen jurors—is deciding if accused police officers really did ‘fear for their own life’ in justifying force resulting in injury or death. Regardless of whether accused officers are determined to have been justified in their actions, they must always be held accountable for their decisions and behavior—especially in how they relate to their citizens.
Organized protest groups in Ferguson, Missouri have been raising awareness of the issue of police accountability almost daily since the death of Michael Brown in early August 2014. As Michael T. McPhearson, co-chairman of the Don’t Shoot Coalition says, “We’re calling for police accountability, police transparency, changing how the police do their work.” Ultimately, protestors like McPhearson are wanting to change the relationship dynamic between citizens and the police from one of mutual distrust and suspicion to one of confidence and faith. If police are willing to be held accountable by its citizens—and more importantly, if police hold themselves accountable for their behavior—the issue of excessive force and unwarranted police brutality can eventually become a less challenging and divisive one.