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Committee to investigate Ferguson response

State lawmakers are raising questions about the state’s response to the unrest in Ferguson after November’s grand jury ruling.

The Joint Committee on Governmental Accountability had its first hearing at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. This comes in the aftermath of the Ferguson riots after the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Senators said the focus is narrow: to investigate the state’s response to the Ferguson riots and hold accountable officials making the decisions. “This thing may blow up — this thing may be bigger than you guys can even fathom. Once we start subpoenaing records and looking at the cross communication and the cross dialogues because what I’ve heard coming from the mayor and Ferguson — is that this can be semi-criminal,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, Democrat from St. Louis.

Officials say one of the main issues before the committee is why the governor failed to deploy more National Guard troops in Ferguson directly after the grand jury’s decision. “What is baffling to me and many others, and my constituents and first responders, quite frankly, is to why the National Guard was in other places, including Clayton and downtown, but not in Ferguson as one of our communities burned,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt, Republican from Glendale.

A statement from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office said, “That night, more than 700 guardsmen were deployed to nearly 100 locations around the St. Louis region, including in the Ferguson command post. There were also nearly 500 law enforcement officers, including 150 state troopers, in Ferguson.”

The joint committee said it’s also focused on the funding. “There’s upwards of $16 million that’s been committed by the state of Missouri to the response and so as part of the investigation of the accountability of what happened, I think that someone is going to have to explain where that money went and what it was used for,” said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Republican from Columbia.

The joint committee said there’s no final cost for the Ferguson response yet. The committee will release a report at the end of its investigation.

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