WASHINGTON DC, USA – The embattled police chief in Ferguson, Missouri resigned Wednesday, March 11, a week after a scathing US Justice Department report into the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by one of his officers.
Thomas Jackson is the latest prominent official in the St. Louis suburb to stand down, 7 months after Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, igniting angry protests and a national debate about race and law enforcement.
“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position of chief of police,” wrote Jackson, who has been police chief since 2010.
His resignation – which was reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch welcomed by Brown’s family – will take effect on March 19, he said, to allow “an orderly transition of command.”
In a brief statement, the City of Ferguson confirmed it had agreed “a mutual separation” with Jackson that would see him get severance pay and health insurance for a year.
The Justice Department last Wednesday said it lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute Wilson on federal civil rights charges over the August 9 death of 18-year-old Brown after an altercation on a quiet residential street.
Faulted for racial bias
But it condemned Ferguson’s city hall, police department and municipal court for racial bias in targeting its African-American majority as a means to generate revenue.
Brown’s family has indicated it intends to file a civil lawsuit against Ferguson and Wilson, accusing them of unlawful death.
“Michael Brown’s mother and father are relieved that actions are being taken to address the very disturbing findings in the Department of Justice report,” family lawyer Benjamin Crump told CNN.
Jackson is the fifth Ferguson official to resign in the wake of the Justice Department’s damning findings.
Others include Ferguson’s municipal court judge, two long-time police commanders – including Wilson’s supervisor – and, on Tuesday, March 10, its city manager.
Ferguson’s court clerk was meanwhile fired over emails that smacked of racism.
Still in office is Ferguson Mayor James Knowles. He has promised root-and-branch reforms in the community of 21,000, in which two in 3 residents is African American.
At a late afternoon press conference, Knowles called the silver-haired Jackson “an honorable man” who recognized that “the way to move forward was with someone else, and so he left.”
Wilson, no longer with the overwhelmingly white Ferguson police force, said he shot Brown after the youth – a suspect in a corner-store shoplifting – tried to grab hold of his firearm.
Others insist that Brown had put his hands up in a gesture of surrender when Wilson opened fire.
A grand jury in November chose not to indict Wilson on murder or manslaughter charges, reigniting protests that sometimes turned violent.
Police departments around the United States have come under intense scrutiny over the deaths of African-Americans – from New York, where Eric Garner died after he was put in a chokehold during a sidewalk arrest, to Madison, Wisconsin where protests continued Wednesday after Friday’s shooting death of an unarmed teenager.
Outgoing federal Attorney General Eric Holder has threatened Ferguson with a lawsuit if it fails to fulfill a set of recommendations to overhaul its law enforcement and municipal court system.
Mayor Knowles, a thirtysomething Republican elected 4 months before Brown was killed, on Wednesday ruled out dismantling Ferguson’s police department.
Instead, he said, Ferguson will pursue a “nationwide search” for a new police chief and city manager, in an attempt to become “an example of a city that can move forward in the face of adversity.” – Robert Macpherson, AFP / Rappler.com