As the media reacts to a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, commentators appear to agree on one thing: This isn't a surprise. While grand juries usually return an indictment, FiveThirtyEight.com notes, that doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to police shootings. Observers are pointing to a need for systemic change:
- At Slate, Jamelle Bouie acknowledges that such indictments are "extremely rare." And that's to be expected: "Actual justice for Michael Brown—a world in which young men like Michael Brown can’t be gunned down without consequences—won’t come from the criminal justice system. Our courts and juries aren’t impartial arbiters—they exist inside society, not outside of it—and they can only provide as much justice as society is willing to give," he writes.
- Jason Johnson raises similar concerns at CNN. "Police transparency, review of controversial programs, selecting objective prosecutors, and community engagement are basic government functions that should have worked far better in response" to the shooting, he writes. A better-functioning government at any of these levels would have prompted "a lot more faith in the grand jury decision," thus helping prevent further violence.
- In the Washington Post, a former federal prosecutor weighs in: "I know firsthand how difficult it is to prosecute police officers," writes Jenny Durkan. Federal law "essentially requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer intended to deprive a person of his civil rights," and that's a very difficult case to make. But after working for a better system in Seattle, she sees hope for change: The city has moved toward new training for police and better oversight, even if it will take years to "truly change the culture."
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