Ferguson Suits Target Police Records, Crowd Control

By / Aug 19, 2014 National Bar Association Vice President of Finance Benjamin Crump, who is representing the victim's family. (via Crump's website)

Arguing that authorities in the St. Louis suburb haven’t been forthcoming with public records and evidence about last week’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen, the National Bar Association is suing to gain access. The ACLU, meanwhile, has interceded on behalf of protesters and the media.

The clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, continue more than a week after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer.

Part of the problem, protesters say, is that the police presence in the city has remained oppressive—a claim echoed by media organizations over the detention of reporters covering events there.

Beyond the police tactics, a lingering source of tension between authorities and the community has been a lack of information about the investigation into the death of Brown, an African-American teen who was unarmed when he was shot by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. It took nearly a week for the police department to name Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown. The incident report of the shooting has not been made public, and no clear explanation of the events surrounding the shooting has been offered. Authorities also have not said whether charges will be filed against Wilson.

There can be no full, fair, and accurate accounting in any state or federal criminal or civil action unless any and all footage is carefully preserved.

On Monday, the National Bar Association, a legal membership group made up predominantly of black lawyers and judges, sued the City of Ferguson and its police department seeking release of public information related to Brown’s shooting, including incident reports, photographs, video, notes, and anything else that could shine light on the shooting. The group also demanded the preservation of evidence in the case.

“There can be no full, fair, and accurate accounting in any state or federal criminal or civil action unless any and all footage is carefully preserved,” NBA President Pamela J. Meanes said in a statement. “We want to ensure the family of Michael Brown and the residents of St. Louis understand correct measures are being taken to protect evidence regarding this tragic incident.”

In another tie to the case, NBA Vice President of Finance Benjamin Crump is the civil rights attorney representing the Brown family. Crump, who also represented the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, has been pushing for Wilson’s arrest on behalf of his clients.

Protecting Protester Rights

While NBA is focused on disclosure of information and preservation of evidence, the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday sued authorities over crowd control methods during the protests.

The ACLU sought a restraining order to prevent police from requiring protesters to keep moving when on sidewalks unless they are gathered in an area designated for protests.

Officials say the strategy protects public safety. But the ACLU argues that it illegally restricts the movements of “people who are violating no law” and limits “the ability of the media to witness and report on unfolding events.”

A federal judge denied the group’s motion for a temporary restraining order Monday night.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »