Nixon creating group to address Ferguson issues

AP News
|
Posted: Oct 21, 2014 4:46 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — An independent commission will be created to study issues that have surfaced since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday.

Nixon, who has been criticized by some residents and activists who say he hasn't done enough to address the unrest in the St. Louis suburb, said the Ferguson Commission will examine the social and economic conditions underscored by the weeks of protests following the shooting.

He outlined his plan for the commission, which will be created by executive order, during a news conference at St. Louis Community College's Florissant Valley campus. The group's goals are broad and its members won't be announced until next month.

The shooting of Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, has spurred unrest that has drawn the national spotlight to Ferguson, including violent protests in the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting and calls for the white officer who killed Brown to be arrested and charged.

Nixon said the commission will have no role in investigating Brown's death. A grand jury in St. Louis County is hearing evidence on whether officer Darren Wilson should be criminally charged and is expected to announce its decision next month. The Justice Department has also opened a civil rights investigation.

"Whatever the outcome of their investigations, we must move forward together," Nixon said.

Besides studying conditions that led to the unrest, the group is also to give recommendations for making the St. Louis region a fairer place to live. Nixon said members will include business, education, public safety and faith leaders, along with ordinary citizens. They will seek advice from experts on poverty, education, government and law enforcement before making suggestions.

The governor said protesters' voices have been heard. "But as the smoke clears and the shouting dies down, the question that lingers in the air is this: What now?" Nixon said.

Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis said the commission is "a first step toward bringing serenity to the cause."

Others are skeptical.

"Governor Nixon has failed the residents of Missouri again with his announcement of the politically toothless Ferguson Commission," the group Ferguson October, which recently organized four days of mostly peaceful protests, said in a statement. "Commissions historically have been the place where movements die, a place where those in power tout empty policy solutions and instead use the time to return to business as usual."