By Julissa Catalan
Six weeks after unarmed Black teen Michael Brown was shot by white Police Officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson released a taped public apology to Brown’s family, as well as to the Black community.
“I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Jackson said in his scripted speech while wearing a polo shirt—rather than a uniform—as he stood in front of the American flag while acknowledging that Brown’s body lay on the street for hours, long enough for a large portion of the community to see him dead.
“You have every right to be angry and upset. The time that it took involved the completion of the work of the investigators to preserve physical evidence and determine the facts, but four-and-a-half hours was simply too long.”
Jackson also apologized to the protestors on behalf of the police department, recognizing the mistreatment hundreds within the Ferguson community received at the hands of police officers.
“I am sorry to any peaceful protester who believes that I didn’t do my best job of protecting people and supporting the Constitution and everyone’s First Amendment rights to peacefully protest and publicly grieve here in Ferguson,” he said. “The right of the people to peaceably assemble is what the police are supposed to protect.”
Instead, footage of overly aggressive and violent officers circulated in the media in the weeks following Brown’s shooting.
“As a community, a city and a nation, we have real problems to solve, not just in Ferguson, but in the entire region and beyond,” Jackson said. “For any mistakes I have made in any of this, I take full responsibility.”
The release of the video apology—which was guided by St. Louis public relations firm, The Devin James Group—coincides with two other important developments involving the Brown case.
First, Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr.; Reverend Al Sharpton; NAACP President Cornell Brooks; Urban League President Marc Morial; and Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump visited Washington, D.C., to urge the Justice Department to review Brown’s case for police misconduct and for a grand jury to indict Wilson.
Then came the unexpected resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been leading the Department of Justice’s civil-rights investigation. On Aug. 20, Holder wrote an op-ed piece titled “A Message to the People of Ferguson” which ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and on stltoday.com.
Currently, a Missouri grand jury—whose term recently was extended until Jan. 7—is weighing whether to indict Wilson in the Brown shooting.
“The volume of the witnesses, and the length of time for their testimony, their appearance before the grand jury is taking longer than anticipated,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said.
McCulloch, who expects to finish presenting his evidence to the grand jury by early to mid-November, has been criticized for presenting far more evidence than is normal to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, Wilson testified at his indictment. Defendants rarely attend a grand jury proceeding, much less testify at one.
Both of these moves have been criticized by locals who believe McCulloch is trying to throw the case and prevent Wilson from being charged.
In the meantime, Wilson remains on paid administrative leave from the force.
“Whether they wear blue jeans or blue uniforms, criminals must be held accountable,” Sharpton said at a news conference following the Jackson video’s release.
Watch Jackson’s apology here: