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Missouri Commission To Address Issues Underlying Turmoil In Ferguson


Ferguson, Missouri, is a community in waiting - waiting to hear if a grand jury will indict a white police officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager last August. Today, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon swore in members of a commission to address the issues underlying the turmoil that followed Michael Brown's death. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: When Governor Jay Nixon announced that he would set up this commission, he said its work would not be an investigation of the death of Michael Brown but instead, a thorough study of the underlying social and economic conditions that have been underscored by the unrest in the wake of Brown's shooting.


GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: The most important work the commission accomplishes will not be what is written on sheets of paper or on a website. It will be seen and felt in our daily lives as concrete changes that are brought about in our institutions, our workplaces, our communities and in our interactions with one another.

CORLEY: The Ferguson Commission includes a diverse group - 16 members in all. Co-chair Reverend Starsky Wilson says they will work for racial equity and to build abetter community.


STARSKY WILSON: It is indeed progress that people in this group were chosen not in spite of dedicated service in law enforcement, but because of it. And others of us are at the table not in spite of our actions and patriotic protest, but because of them.

CORLEY: Michael McBride is a pastor who is not a part of the commission. He works for a faith-based organizing group called the PICO Network, and he's been actively involved in the protest movement in Ferguson. McBride says he applauds the service of the commission members, but he's not impressed by the governor's decision to set up a commission.

MICHAEL MCBRIDE: I think that the state of despair and hopelessness and trauma that has gripped this region requires something far more immediate and wide-reaching than the formation of a commission.

CORLEY: McBride says the commission may seem worthwhile, but the governor has refused a request from the community to allow a special prosecutor to investigate the Brown shooting. Yesterday in advance of word from the grand jury in the Brown case, Governor Nixon imposed a state of emergency in the town and activated the National Guard, a decision he explained in a teleconference Monday night.


NIXON: The guard will help the law enforcement agencies of the unified command achieve our dual goals, keeping the public safe while protecting constitutional rights.

CORLEY: Mcbride says it's that type of action which has caused so much distrust among people on the ground who ask for the governor to demilitarize any response. And he says there have already been several recommendations from the community that the governor could act on immediately.

Even so, Rich McClure, a Ferguson businessman and the other co-chair of the Ferguson commission, says that group will craft recommendations that demand action and change because the Ferguson region must begin to reconcile and heal.


RICH MCCLURE: You don't have to see eye-to-eye to walk arm-in-arm. And we've had too much of you-and-them and not enough of we and us and together.

CORLEY: Governor Nixon echoed that sentiment, issuing what he said was a call to action for the residents of Ferguson and the region. He said they should use what he called a defining moment to heal the divisions exposed by the death of Michael Brown. Cheryl Corley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.

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