August 27, 2014

McCaskill to investigate police militarization (AUDIO)

Senator McCaskill plans a hearing on the militarization of police departments as soon as Congress returns to Washington from its August break.  She is among the critics of the use of military equipment in the Ferguson riots, suggesting the department had equipment it doesn’t need and misused the equipment it had.

McCaskill says her committee needs to look at how much equipment departments have gotten, how often they’ve used it, and how expensive is it to maintain.  She recalls when she was state auditor looking into the hazardous materials equipment that had been sent by the federal government to Missouri police departments after the 2001 terrorist attacks and finding more than half of the departments had never taken the equipment out of its boxes.

She says, “Some of these programs is the transfer of equipment that’s no longer needed. So in some of these instances it’s getting utilization out of the equipment at the local level that the federal government no longer has a use for. So that’s not a waste of taxpayer money. It may become a waste of taxpayer money, however, if this equipment is expensive to maintain and really isn’t utilized or shouldn’t be utilized.”

McCaskill says some of the equipment used in Ferguson was used in a way that worsened the situation by antagonizing the crowd. She thinks the Ferguson experience also emphasizes the need for people using the equipment to be properly trained.

Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day.

AUDIO: McCaskill interview 3:57

Recount starts on Right to Farm Amendment (AUDIO)

The Secretary of State has started a recount of the vote on the Right to Farm Amendment that was narrowly approved by voters earlier this month. The amendment passed 499,581-497,091.  The 2490-vote margin amounts to .24% of the 996,672 total votes.  State law provides for a state-paid recount if the voting difference is .5% or less.

Spokesman Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America, the opposing group, says the recount is being sought as a matter of keeping faith with opponents, noting, “This was a grass roots…effort for us. And I just  think that when people work that hard, not to do everything possible to secure a victory would do a real disservice to politics in the state of Missouri or issues in the state of Missouri or, frankly, the people of the state of Missouri.”

The recounting is done by county clerks who have until September 15 to finish the job. Backers of the Right to Farm Amendment say a recount is futile. Shoemyer says it will only take one vote changed in one-third of the elections’ 3899 could reverse the result.

Five counties had set recount dates within hours of the state’s call for checking of the ballots.  Washington County has scheduled its recount for Aeptember4.  Lincoln, Henry, and Crawford Counties will do their recounts on September 8. Boone County has scheduled five days for its recount: September 4-5 and September 8-10.  All counties must finish their work by September 15.

AUDIO:: Shoemyer interview 3:54

Koster calls diversity meetings (AUDIO)

Racial tensions between the Ferguson police department and many of the city’s residents are leading to some workshops to find ways to get more minorities on police forces. Dozens of police departments in Missouri don’t look like the people in the communities they serve.  The issue has come to the fore with the shooting and subsequent protests in Ferguson.

Attorney General Chris Koster is convening workshops in St. Louis and in Kansas City in October to find answers to low minority participation in law enforcement.

Koster worries that law enforcement  among some minorities might be considered a tainted profession.  He says people like Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, the security commander in Ferguson, are examples to show young people, “larger than life figures…making enormous contributions to policing and the law enforcement community, bringing these types of individuals…in front of tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders and opening their eyes to the reality that there are good jobs out there…to create a life for yourself, for your family, and the community you work in.”

He says the situation is not unique to Missouri. Koster says Missouri just happens to have seen the elements come together in a tragic fashion.  Koster says there’s more to solving the problem than changing police attitudes. He says entire communities have to be involved.

AUDIO: Koster interview 18:46

Sharpton uses Michael Brown funeral to urge action, change

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton has told mourners at Michael Brown’s funeral that their presence requires them to be agents for change.

Al Sharpton asks those at the funeral of Michael Brown what they have done to prompt change since Brown's death.  (screencap courtesy; KTVI)

Al Sharpton asks those at the funeral of Michael Brown what they have done to prompt change since Brown’s death. (screencap courtesy; KTVI)

“Michael Brown must be remembered for more than disturbances,” Sharpton told a large audience at a St. Louis church. “He must be remembered for this is where they started changing what was going on.”

“Michael has gone on to get his rest now. We are required in his name to change the country,” he said.

Brown, 18, was shot to death by a white Ferguson policeman August 9. A St. Louis County grand jury is investigating the incident but the county prosecutor says its work might not be done until October.

Sharpton told the mostly African-American audience that the black community cannot expect white America to do all of the changing.

“What does God expect of us?” he asked. “We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too. We have to be outraged at a nine-year old girl killed in Chicago. We have to be outraged by our disrespect for each other; our disregard for each other; our killing and shooting each other, and running around gun totin’ each other so that they’re justifying coming at us because of acts like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”

“Blackness,” he said, “has never been about being a gangster or a thug. Blackness is about no matter how low we were put down, we rose up anyhow.”

Sharpton reminded the audience that Michael Brown’s family wants peace in the streets. “They want silence today,” he said, urging demonstrators to do so peacefully. “If not, don’t do it in Michael’s name; do it in your own name,” he concluded, predicting, “Justice is gonna come; Justice is gonna come; Justice is gonna come!”

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton has told mourners at Michael Brown’s funeral that their presence requires them to be agents for change. “Michael Brown must be remembered for more than disturbances,” he told a large audience at a St. Louis church . “He must be remembered for this is where they started changing what was going on.”
“Michael has gone on to get his rest now. We are required in his name to change the country.” he said
Brown, 18, was shot to death by a white Ferguson policeman August 9. A St. Louis County grand jury is investigating the incident but the county prosecutor says its work might not be done until October.
Sharpton told the mostly African-American audience that the black community cannot expect white America to do all of the changing. “What does god expect of us?” he asked. “We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too. We have to be outraged at a nine-year old girl killed in Chicago. We have to be outraged by our disrepsect for each other; our disregard for each other; our killing and shooting each other, and running around gun totin’ each other so that they’re justifying coming at us becuae of acts like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”
“Blackness,” he said, “has never been about being a gangster or a thug. Blackness is about no matter how low we were put down, we ros up anyhow.”?
Sharpton reminded the audience that Michael Brown’s family wants peace in the streets. “They want silence today,” he said, urging demonstrators to do so peacefully. “If not, don’t do it in Michael’s name; do it in your own name,” he concluded, predicting, “Justice is gonna come; Justice is gonna come; Justice is goinna come!”

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton has told mourners at Michael Brown’s funeral that their presence requires them to be agents for change. “Michael Brown must be remembered for more than disturbances,” he told a large audience at a St. Louis church . “He must be remembered for this is where they started changing what was going on.”
“Michael has gone on to get his rest now. We are required in his name to change the country.” he said
Brown, 18, was shot to death by a white Ferguson policeman August 9. A St. Louis County grand jury is investigating the incident but the county prosecutor says its work might not be done until October.
Sharpton told the mostly African-American audience that the black community cannot expect white America to do all of the changing. “What does god expect of us?” he asked. “We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too. We have to be outraged at a nine-year old girl killed in Chicago. We have to be outraged by our disrepsect for each other; our disregard for each other; our killing and shooting each other, and running around gun totin’ each other so that they’re justifying coming at us becuae of acts like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”
“Blackness,” he said, “has never been about being a gangster or a thug. Blackness is about no matter how low we were put down, we ros up anyhow.”?
Sharpton reminded the audience that Michael Brown’s family wants peace in the streets. “They want silence today,” he said, urging demonstrators to do so peacefully. “If not, don’t do it in Michael’s name; do it in your own name,” he concluded, predicting, “Justice is gonna come; Justice is gonna come; Justice is goinna come!”

AUDIO: Sharpton, part I

AUDO: Sharpton, part 2

Grand Jury 101: What’s next for the Michael Brown case? (AUDIO)

Twelve people will be deciding–in secret–what the direction should be of the Michael Brown case.  It’s time for a course called Grand Jury 101: How and Why of a grand jury.

The American justice system has two ways of determining if a criminal case has a legal basis for going forward.  A preliminary hearing leaves the decision to a judge who hears arguments and possibly witnesses from both sides.  The decision in a grand jury proceeding is made by 12 people, nine of whom have to agree on a charge.  The grand jury is a prosecutor’s tool.  A defense attorney is not allowed in the room.

Veteran criminal defense attorney J. R. Hobbs, who also teaches criminal trial techniques at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, says a grand jury gives the prosecutor an early advantage because the counsel for a potential defendant is not able to cross examine or make points on an issue.  In a grand jury proceeding, only the prosecutor and grand jurors are present.

He says grand jury proceedings are secret because the grand jury might hear a lot of things that won’t be heard in court, that might just be wrong, and might be enough to damage a person’s reputation if they are not enough to merit an indictment.

AUDIO: J. R. Hobbs interview 18:30