Michael Brown’s parents unmoved by chief’s apologies

Michael Brown’s parents want more than an apology from Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson in the wake of their son’s death, saying in an interview with The Associated Press Saturday they would prefer Officer Darren Wilson arrested and charged with murder and the chief fired. The comments come seven weeks after Officer Wilson shot and killed their 18-year-old son.

“An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder,” the slain teen’s father, Michael Brown Sr., said in the interview.

Wilson, who is white, has been identified as the officer who shot and killed Brown on August 9th. The racially charged incident spurred rallies in Ferguson and across the nation, including some protests that turned violent. The incident incited a national conversation around both police tactics and race relations, with some pointing to the shooting as an indication that police action has become overly aggressive and militaristic.

Chief Tom Jackson released a video in which he apologizes to the Browns and Ferguson’s African-American community this past week. In addition to his apology, Jackson also said the teen’s body should not have remained uncovered in the street as long as it did. Police allowed Brown’s remains to lie uncovered on the street for more than four hours while authorities collected evidence from the crime scene on Canfield Drive.

“I don’t want words, I want action,” Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden said. When asked whether or not she thinks Jackson should be fired, she answered “yes.”

McSpadden and Brown Sr. have traveled Washington to meet lawmakers and lobby Congress on their son’s behalf. They plan to discuss the introduction of a law that would require police officers to wear cameras when they interact with the public. Advocates for the law have argued it could help improve how police interact with the community not just by documenting possible instances of police aggression against citizens but also by potentially protecting officers from false claims made by citizens they police.

In the meantime, a grand jury in St. Louis is still weighing evidence to decide whether or not Wilson should be indicted for the shooting, and the U.S. Department of Justice continues to investigate whether the incident constituted a violation of Brown’s civil rights.

Brown’s parents said in their recent interview they were angry to learn many Ferguson police officers have been wearing bracelets to support Officer Wilson. Other Ferguson residents also complained about the black bracelets with the message “I am Darren Wilson” written in white when they participated at a meeting with federal officials this week. Benjamin Crump, Brown’s attorney, said the bracelets give the impression that police are not impartial in the shooting case.

The Department of Justice responded to those complaints by announcing in a letter that local and state police in Feguson have been prohibited from wearing the bracelets while in uniform. Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the civil rights division’s special litigation section, wrote:

We are keenly aware of the importance of individual expression of opinions, even those that some find offensive, insensitive, or harmful. We also acknowledge that the message that many officers intend to convey by wearing these bracelets may be different than the message received by many of those who see these bracelets.

Nonetheless, there is no question that police departments can and should closely regulate officers’ professional appearance and behavior, particularly where, as here, the expressive accessory itself is exacerbating an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson. These bracelets reinforce the very “us versus them” mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.

“It lets me know how they really feel about the situation, and the wrongness that they do,” McSpadden declared. “How can you work for the law and act like you’re above the law?” she added.