ACLU of Missouri Files Two Lawsuits Against Ferguson Police Department


Read more of our coverage related to recent events in Ferguson here.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed two lawsuits against the Ferguson, Missouri, police department Thursday, one requesting the incident report related to the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, and another challenging the police policy of demeaning and ordering members of the media to stop recording police activities.

The lawsuits followed days of protests by citizens and a violent police response in the St. Louis suburb after a police officer shot and killed 18-year old Michael Brown on Saturday, August 9, and the department refused to identify the officer responsible for the shooting for nearly a week. On Friday, Police Chief Thomas Jackson named Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed Brown, saying Wilson is a six-year veteran of the department with no prior disciplinary record.

The first lawsuit, seeking the Ferguson Police Department’s full report on the police shooting, claims the department’s refusal to release the officer’s name right away and other details of the event violates Missouri’s Sunshine Law, a state law designed to promote transparency and accountability in government affairs.

The second lawsuit asks the court to block the Ferguson Police Department’s policy of demanding and ordering members of the media and the public to stop recording the police acting in their official duty on public streets and sidewalks, specifically in response to community protests following Brown’s death. According to the complaint, “[D]efendants’ response to the demonstrations has been controversial, including using force, ordering peaceful protestors to disband and evacuate the streets and sidewalks, and ordering protestors and observers to stop documenting and videotaping the demonstrations.” The complaint continues, “[T]here is widespread interest in Defendants’ tactics, which raise questions about whether a military response to the protest is consistent with the values of the United States.”

The actions by the Ferguson police have drawn national condemnation, including from President Obama. Following widespread complaints, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stripped local police of their authority over the protests and placed state highway patrol in charge. State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, a Black man who grew up in the area, took control of the law enforcement response and, according to reports, the change in leadership and approach was met with relief and appreciation by the community. Johnson marched alongside protesters Thursday, a marked change from county police in armored tanks shooting tear gas at protesters.

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  • dudebro

    Arresting and assaulting journalists is beyond the pale.

    • madihwa

      Darned right it is!

  • joshuaism

    On Friday, Police Chief Thomas Jackson called a press conference where he defamed, Michael Brown, an unarmed shooting victim. He also incidentally named the shooter but insisted that that kid had it coming.

    • madihwa

      At first they also tried to say that Brown had stolen some cigars. Police will do anything to justify the murders they commit.

  • StealthGaytheist

    Thank you, ACLU!

  • dana becker

    PC Jackson has been an embarrassment and handled this in a terrible manner. He needs to be removed from his position. He created a dangerous environment and went way overboard and exacerbated the situation.

    • Arekushieru

      Yeah, apparently he passed it along to a police chief of another jurisdiction (?) because he didn’t want to be seen as biased. Well, HE was the one who passed it along to someone else so HE should be the one to step up and take responsibility for that. *Sigh*

  • dana becker

    I was very disappointed to see the video of Michael Brown acting like a thug with the merchant and he deserved to face any consequences of his actions, but in a lawful manner.

    I don’t know all the facts of what transpired in the street or the policeman’s car but to have the officer purposely walk after him and shoot him multiple times while he, the police officer, was not in any danger because Brown was going away not toward the officer, is just plain murder.
    What happened to wounding a suspect? Never mind that there was no reason to shoot him to begin with.
    The offense did not warrant such a response and was way overboard. He should have been arrested and faced the music not death.

    • Jayne Martin

      He was *executed* in broad daylight.

    • Arekushieru

      I was very disappointed to see that a video such as that aired, full stop. It distracts from the fact that a black man was murdered.

      • dana becker

        Yes it does and the police did it for character assassination and nothing else.

    • fiona64

      I concur; we do not have the death penalty for “acting like a thug” in this country.

      I am, however, sick and tired of “thug” being what racists say when they mean “N***er.”

  • Arekushieru

    Apparently not. Otherwise the name of the shooter would have already been discovered. Oi.

  • Arekushieru

    And, gee, I wonder why they didn’t challenge your brother-in-law’s case. Perhaps because he did nothing wrong or there were no conflicting reports?