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ACLU-MN director on Michael Brown: "Ferguson is maybe the canary in the coal mine"

Michael Brown (left) was shot dead by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (right).
Michael Brown (left) was shot dead by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (right).

The officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is symptomatic of nationwide problems regarding the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they're supposed to serve and protect, Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU-MN, tells us.

"A lot of the ACLU's concern is that Ferguson is maybe the canary in the coal mine," he says. "There are a number of other communities where relationships between primarily white police departments and minority communities have been strained for years."

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Samuelson says he was particularly struck by the opening paragraph of this USA Today piece, which reads:

Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.

"I have no idea whether it's is true or not," Samuelson says. "But it's an incredibly sobering stat. The ACLU is deeply concerned nationwide with the current police practices and training... they are very, very aggressive, police are heavily armed and more than willing to use force."

The circumstances surrounding Brown's shooting remain shrouded in mystery, and a grand jury tasked with deciding whether or not to indict the officer who shot him, Darren Wilson, is currently hearing evidence.

Though there are questions about whether the St. Louis County attorney, Robert McCulloch, is an appropriate person to be presenting evidence to the grand jury -- his father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty -- Samuelson says the problem is more about the game, not the player.

"Frankly, whenever one community investigates themselves, what happens is that frequently decisions don't carry a lot of credibility outside those communities," he says. "I think the law enforcement community is certainly not immune to that."

"The ACLU has asked for years that there be a civilian review board that reviews these issues," Samuelson continues. "It certainly hasn't happened here or there."

For what it's worth, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau took to Twitter yesterday to express confidence that the unrest in Ferguson wouldn't occur in her city:

But some would argue recent events demonstrate that Minneapolis is subject to some of the same tensions Samuelson and the ACLU are concerned about.

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.




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