Friday, August 22, 2014

Police Reports Shed Little Light on Ferguson Shooting
Woman beaten down by cops in Ferguson, MO.
Reports Are Largely Redacted but Show Lag in Response Time to Incident

Wall Street Journal
Aug. 22, 2014 9:28 p.m. ET

FERGUSON, Mo.—Almost two weeks after a police-involved shooting triggered looting and violent protests in this St. Louis suburb, the first glimpse of the police reports filed in relation to the death of the 18-year-old man surfaced on Friday, shedding little light on what happened.

The largely redacted reports from the Ferguson Police Department and a the St. Louis County Police Department were released following a state Sunshine law request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The narrative of investigators and the officer involved in the incident, Darren Wilson, regarding the shooting that killed Michael Brown were redacted entirely.

The information that remained in the report included response times by officers.

The reports show that St. Louis County, which is leading the investigation, wasn't called to initiate their investigation for about 40 minutes from the time of the shooting.

They also show that a St. Louis County detective didn't arrive at the scene for nearly 45 minutes after the call, meaning the lead investigators on the case didn't view the crime scene for the first time until 1½ hours after the incident.

A lawyer hired by Mr. Brown's family said the time delay is "not uncommon" when an agency is deferring investigation to another agency because it takes times to assign personnel.

"I'm not saying that an hour-and-a-half is reasonable but I am saying that there is some lag time between the two," the lawyer, Anthony Gray, said.

Brian Schellman, spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, said the delay can be attributed, in part, to the fact that the investigators were at the site of another investigation, on the south side of the city, when they received the call to respond in Ferguson, in northern St. Louis.

The delayed release of the documents follows a pattern of disclosure criticized by everyone from protesters on the streets of Ferguson, to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It took days after the shooting for the Ferguson police to release information allegedly tying Mr. Brown to a strong-arm robbery prior to the shooting, and to identify the officer as Mr. Wilson.

Edward Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, said he hasn't seen the ACLU release and couldn't comment on it or verify its authenticity.

"It was my understanding that as soon as [Ferguson Police Chief Thomas] Jackson was notified he notified [St. Louis County Police Chief Jon] Belmar," Mr. Magee said, adding that the chief dispatched detectives to the scene.

Municipal police departments in St. Louis County aren't required to call on the county to investigate cases of police-involved shootings, but they almost always do for transparency, Mr. Magee said.

"It's up to that jurisdiction to call them in," Mr. Magee said. "They are not mandated, but the vast majority do it right away. It's their option but it's not recommended."

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