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Conyers Urges Peace in Pursuit of Justice after Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Nov 25, 2014

DETROIT – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. released the following statement after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson:

“Though the judicial process was fully exercised in this case, I am disappointed in the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, African-American 18 -year-old.  This result underscores the legal hurdles faced in holding the police accountable for abuse of authority and further illustrates the need for major reform in our criminal justice system.

“It is my sincere hope that in the coming days, we can all focus on the fact that the issues contributing to the Michael Brown shooting are more complex than the criminal indictment of a single police officer can begin to address.  Just as we did during the Civil Rights Movement, I urge those who are upset by the decision to peacefully voice your opposition and exercise non-violent protests to pursue equal justice.

“I hope that the troubling circumstances in Ferguson will serve to galvanize our national resolve to address the much larger history of adversarial relationships between the police and communities of color.  Despite the fact that the majority of law enforcement officers  perform their duties professionally and without bias – and we value their service highly – the issues of race and reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct are so closely linked in law enforcement practices that profiling bias has an impact on virtually every area of criminal justice policy.  In cases like Michael Brown, this specter of racial profiling runs the substantial risk of rendering young minority men suspect as potential perpetrators to be met with the deadliest of force.

“Decades ago, this country made clear through the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation that race should not affect the treatment of individual Americans under the law.  Racial profiling is a direct affront to the constitutional promise of equal protection that was the goal of the 1960's.  We can cultivate community focused, smart policing that rebuilds trust between residents and law enforcement by ending use of racial profiling and use of excessive force.  The Department of Justice has achieved this result using its pattern-and-practice authority (42 U.S.C. 14141) in numerous cities across the nation, most dramatically in the Los Angeles Police Department consent decree.  We must reaffirm the concept that when law-abiding citizens are treated differently by those who enforce the law- simply because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin- they are denied the basic respect and equal treatment that is the right of every American.”

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On August 11, 2014, Ranking Member John Conyers, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11), and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01) issued a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a full civil rights investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown.

On August 14, 2014, Ranking Member Conyers, Subcommittee on Crime Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-06) requesting a Congressional hearing on several incidents of local law enforcement using excessive force–sometimes deadly–and other violations where civil rights have been infringed upon. The letter also expresses concern over the extensive militarization of local law enforcement.

The Department of Justice opened a civil rights “pattern and practice” investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department for possible discriminatory misconduct on September 4, 2014.

113th Congress