There's no doubt, right from the start, that the Ferguson Police Department isn't playing this as an investigation of an officer, but as an investigation of Michael Brown.
How this turns out is going to come down to the actions of one man: Bob McCulloch, the Democratic St. Louis County prosecutor. It's up to McCulloch whether to charge Darren Wilson and obtain justice for Michael Brown, whether any charges will be leveled against police forces that reacted with ridiculous levels of force to nonviolent protesters, and to determine whether the community will start to heal or be set ablaze.
So how is McCulloch likely to act? Signs are troubling:
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch Thursday night blasted the decision by Gov. Jay Nixon to replace St. Louis County Police control of the Ferguson situation with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.Please read below the fold for more on McCulloch.
“It's shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that," McCulloch said. "To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful."
McCulloch noted that no one was seriously injured in the effort led by County Police Chief Jon Belmar until Nixon handed control of the Ferguson over to the state agency on Thursday.
As everyone else was applauding Nixon's belated move to bring in State Police Captain Ron Johnson and defuse the paramilitary buildup that was turning Ferguson into a time bomb, McCulloch found it "shameful." As far as the investigation goes, McCulloch says there's no timeline.
Why is McCulloch reacting this way? Well, there's a reason ...
McCulloch is a 20-year prosecutor, a tough-as-hell on crime guy who campaigns on his effectiveness against violent crime. Which makes him similar to every prosecuting attorney in every urban area in the country. Only McCulloch has a background that can't help but brush up against this case.
McCulloch grew up on the border between St. Louis and Pine Lawn in the shadow of the old ammunitions plant just off Goodfellow Boulevard. His dad was a city cop, one of the first K-9 officers in the department. “July 2, 1964: My dad was 37 years old, I was 12.” It was the day his father was killed in the line of duty trying to arrest a kidnapper. “He was in his police car and heard a call for an officer in need of aid at the old Pruett-Igoe housing project. He wasn’t far from there, and when he arrived, he saw one officer was down and another officer was chasing a guy,” he explains. “They went around a building, my dad went around the other way and they got into a shootout—my father got shot.” Officer Paul McCulloch left behind a wife and four children. Bob McCulloch, the future prosecutor, was now a crime victim. “It had a huge impact on me in the long run. In the short term, at that age, it’s hard to comprehend the finality.It's impossible not to feel for McCulloch and his loss. His father died in the line of duty, and no doubt that propelled Bob McCulloch to launch his own career in law enforcement.
But it's hard to ignore the fact that the man who holds balm in one hand and matches in the other, is someone with a demonstrated inclination to be protective of the local police department. It's also hard to ignore that the Ferguson PD is feeding this case to McCulloch in terms that must seem painfully familiar.
If you were wondering who was the real target of the press conference held by the Ferguson police chief. Well, now you know.
This afternoon, McCulloch appeared on local television to reiterate his support for the county and Ferguson police, who he called "very professional." He also stated that he thought a "show of force" was necessary, and that while a few people might have had to deal with the smell of tear gas—an idea he seemed to find amusing—no one was seriously hurt. Proving that the Ferguson police had done the right thing.
So... hello, DOJ?