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Resignation Of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson Will Not Magically Fix Broken System

Police Chief Thomas Jackson speaks during a news conference in Ferguson

Late Tuesday evening, CNN reported that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson is expected to step down from his position as part of a larger effort to reform the city’s embattled police department. Jackson may announce his resignation as early as next week. CNN is also reporting that St. Louis County will take over control of the department. This is being done in anticipation of the announcement on whether or not Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will face any charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. In the aftermath of Brown’s death, a full-scale movement has formed in Ferguson and elsewhere in the country calling for Wilson’s indictment, as well as systemic changes in law enforcement and its dealings with the black community.

Immediately after CNN ran its story, Jackson, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and the St. Louis County Police Department all denied that Jackson was resigning and the Ferguson PD was coming under the umbrella of St. Louis County. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story minutes after the CNN story hit where Jackson claimed that CNN’s story is completely false. Christine Byers, a reporter for The Post, tweeted out denials from Jackson and St. Louis County Police Department Asst. Chief Kenneth Cox. (Byers is the same reporter who claimed there were “over a dozen witnesses” that confirmed Darren Wilson’s story surrounding the August 9th shooting.)




However, to many activists and organizers working on the ground in Ferguson day and night, word that Jackson is resigning is old news. Currently, St. Louis County is in control of security when it comes to Ferguson protests. Jackson has rarely been seen in recent weeks. As Twitter was ablaze with the news from CNN, some of the more vocal and prominent activists gave nonplussed responses or reminded everyone that Jackson stepping down after 80+ days doesn’t change anything.


I spoke to Kayla Reed, an activist and protest organizer, shortly after the CNN story broke and the denials came out. She reiterated to me that Jackson’s resignation is irrelevant to her, pointing out that he is an old man who gets to retire a few years early while it has been 81 days since Michael Brown was killed and Darren Wilson is still free. Per Reed, “They can keep Jackson, I want Darren Wilson.”

Reed and I discussed whether or not government officials were hoping to use Jackson as a symbol in hopes that his ouster will create the belief that things will be different. She stated the following:

“They can try to give him that cross to bear but crucifying him won’t do any justice…Bandaid on a gun wound doesn’t heal anything. You can keep your bandaid.”

Right now, it appears that local and state government officials, as well as representatives of the Justice Department, are trying to figure out how to maintain calm in the area when a likely non-indictment of Wilson is handed down. First, there was a systematic attempt to prepare residents for the non-indictment via a number of strategic media leaks from those close to the investigation. Now, we have an apparent effort to ‘throw a bone’ at the protesters by getting rid of a man who should have been fired over two months ago.

The thing is the powers that are figuring that they’ll have a titular head of the movement to speak to. They want someone they can negotiate with and get concessions from. Someone they can offer trinkets to. The problem now is that the higher-profile people, such as older clergy members, local politicians and established community organizers, are no longer speaking for the movement. The movement has no defined leader. Those who assume they are leaders due to their positions within the community do not actually wield any real power on the ground. Due to this lack of a clearly defined and centralized leadership, lawmakers and officials are powerless when it comes to trying to negotiate peace in a war of their own creation.

If you want to hear directly from those who are on the ground every day and night demanding justice and change, a national conference call with a number of activists will take place Wednesday evening at 9 PM ET. The call is titled #FergusonFireside and you can get the details here. The organizers and panelists are asking that you submit questions via Twitter using the call’s hashtag.

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