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Ferguson Commission continues to focus on the region, not just Ferguson

The Rev. Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission
File photo I Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
The Rev. Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.

The Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department and court system should not have come as a surprise, Ferguson Commission chairman the Rev. Starsky Wilson said. After all, his group has heard and discussed many of the same themes, he said.

The Ferguson Commission was established by Gov. Jay Nixon after the August shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Earlier this month, Wilson presented a “100 Days of Learning” report. It’s part of a series of reports the commission has published and presented, all leading up to a final report with recommendations, due Sept. 15. That report, Wilson said, will have a broader focus than the Justice Department’s inquiry did.

“The commission’s orientation has always been regional,” he told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday. “The DOJ report focused on Ferguson A, the municipality. The commission’s work really focuses on Ferguson B, the issues that have been exposed, the underlying conditions that we find with the specific interest in the St. Louis region.”

It’s important to note that Ferguson is not unique to the region, Wilson said. The Justice Department report on Ferguson also made several references to neighboring municipalities.

“It is helpful for us all to take this report as an input for us to be reflective upon and look at all of our practices in light of what we see in this report,” Wilson said.

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march in Selma, Ala., Wilson said the social justice issues raised by Ferguson are not new.

“These are things that if we connect them, we can draw a line all the way back to the 50th anniversary of Selma. We can draw a line back beyond that, back to racialized practices de facto and de jure in our country,” he said.

This time, he said, “I think it must be different.”

“We believe that robust community engagement in our process, hearing the voices of people in our process, will help to inform translation, implementation and sustainability of any of our recommendations,” Wilson said. “Our commitment is that as we made recommendations, that they not just be about policies but that we also will identify parties who have the authority to act, and we will map a course forward so that the community itself will receive this report inasmuch as Governor Nixon does.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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