The grand jury in the Ferguson case is expected to meet today in what could be its final session. If a decision is made, it will likely not be made public until at least Sunday because the prosecutors are expected to provide law enforcement 48 hours notice. The FBI has warned that the decision will likely lead to violence by some individuals and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. As we approach this decision, it is important to reflect on how we can address the root problems that allowed the August 9 shooting and subsequent events to occur. The reports and articles below discuss what we can learn from Ferguson, how we can improve police and community relations and why it is important to prevent discrimination and promote diversity.
A 2012 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) called “Dual Pathways to a Better America: Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity” aims to address the societal challenge of eliminating bias, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination as well as their deleterious effects on both victims and perpetrators. A task force of experts was assembled to identify and promote interventions to counteract and prevent these harmful actions and to examine the benefits of promoting inclusion, respect, acceptance and appreciation of diversity.
A September article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains how psychologists and psychological research can help Ferguson heal. The writers explain that our nation must “commit to the complex and difficult work of change” to address the distrust between law enforcement and communities of color, militarized policing, entrenched inequalities, and racism and discrimination. This change can start with honest conversations and dialogues about race relations and the persistence of racism in America.
The public interest sector of the APA also launched a blog series about race, racism and law enforcement in communities of color. One of the posts, by Dr. Ellen Schriver, discusses the need for effective community policing with an emphasis on community relationships as a way of preventing crime and keeping communities safe.
Another post, by Dr. Tom Tyler, identifies teachable moments from the tragedy. He explains that the most important factor in whether or not the public trust the police is whether they believe the police or fairly exercising their authority. He explains that “if people see the police acting with justice, they respond with trust.”
As we prepare for the decision in this controversial case, we hope that the community and the country as a whole will work to address the underlying issues that brought about this tragedy and improve race relations and police relations across the country.