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March 13, 2015

Police officers shot in Ferguson as community tries to heal

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Two police officers were shot in Ferguson, Missouri this week, where tension has been high for months following the August shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.

The ambush happened at a previously peaceful protest in Ferguson hours after the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. Neither of the officers suffered permanent injuries.

Also this week, the Justice Department released a scathing report calling out misconduct by the Ferguson police and court systems. According to the report, those institutions raised money for the city through illegal tickets and arrests in practices. Black citizens, who make up two-thirds of Ferguson’s population, accounted for 93 percent of arrests by a mostly-white police force.

The attack on police could hinder the process of mending relationships between citizens and law enforcement, according to Jeffrey Blackwell, chief at the Cincinnati Police Department.

“This act of cowardly injustice committed against these police officers has those officers more on edge now today, at a time when we’re trying to increase collaboration and mend the fracture that is existing in that community,” he said.

Police departments must develop “authentic” relationships with citizens to build trust within the community, Blackwell said.

In many places, relationships between citizens and police deteriorated during the 2008 recession when forces lost officers in large numbers, said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities’ Chiefs Association.

“We lost touch with our communities in many cities…their ability to spend the time that’s required to develop those relationships was impacted heavily,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. What is the job of police?
  2. What is the relationship between police and residents in your community?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How does a police department build trust?
  2. What will be some of the challenges that the new Ferguson police chief will have to address?
  3. What effect do you think the shooting might have on Ferguson and other communities that have tense relationships between residents and police?
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