In Ferguson, a long road toward healing in the Michael Brown case

Jonathan P Hicks | 8/21/2014, 4:41 p.m.
At long last, the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Black man killed by police in a St. Louis suburb, ...
Jonathan P. Hicks

At long last, the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Black man killed by police in a St. Louis suburb, is able to put their loved one to rest. The family has endured the most harsh and merciless glare of the national spotlight. The parents of the dead teenager have not only had to deal with the horror of losing their son, having police allow his body to lie on the street for hours, but also had to deal with three autopsies, daily protest marches and incessant calls for calm and order on the streets of Ferguson, Mo.

The homegoing service in a huge church in St. Louis this coming Monday is something the family has looked to as an event that might bring some level of closure to their pain. The Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to offer the eulogy. There will be speeches, songs and memorials that are designed to help the family feel a sense of closure.

However, the drama of the death of their son will not end with the services Monday, and there will be a long road before healing is finally attained.

The prospect of the prosecution of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown six times, is very much the focus of not only the family but also the thousands of people who have been protesting on the streets of Ferguson. Wilson continues to collect his regular paycheck while being on some undefined modified assignment. The protesters suggest that some sort of action regarding Wilson would go a long way toward calming the streets of Ferguson.

But there’s more that would help, such as the removal of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch from the case. McCulloch, by the very nature of his job, has a longstanding relationship with police officers in St. Louis County. This incident certainly calls for an independent investigator who will ensure openness and transparency. That appears unlikely to occur, given the continued role of McCulloch.

If there is any silver lining in this heartbreaking cloud, it is the strong presence of the federal government, which has intervened in a way that has brought some semblance of confidence to the family in their desire to have an open investigation.

The Obama administration has been forthright about the situation in Ferguson, condemning the acts of lawlessness against law enforcement officers and the looting of businesses. But the president has also been adamant about the need for an investigation into the death of Brown that will be transparent and that will gain the confidence of the family and the community.

To that end, he sent Attorney General Eric Holder to the scene. The very fact that the nation’s top law enforcement officer was dispatched to Ferguson is a positive step that should bring the family some comfort and confidence. He has met with the Brown family, something the local prosecutors have neglected to do.

Despite the upcoming service and the role of Holder, it will be a long time before the Brown family will feel any sense of normalcy and closure. In the meantime, it’s important for their lawyers, the Ferguson community and the nation to continue to press for openness in the way the investigation is conducted. It is the only way to honor this family and the legacy of their son.