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Ferguson Commission releasing its full, 198-page report

A panel formed after the Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown gave several suggestions on how to improve the region, including consolidating the metro area’s police departments and municipal courts.

The 16-person group, known as the Ferguson Commission, released the 198-page report Monday afternoon at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus, near the town the commission gets its namesake. The report, titled “Forward Through Ferguson”, outlines a broad picture of the St. Louis region, and the inequalities the group felt necessary to address.

Co-chairs Rich McClure and Rev. Starsky Wilson hoped that governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses would use the report to “eliminate existing disparities for racial and ethnic populations.”

Both chairs admitted many discussions through the last ten months of work were difficult, but encouraged other groups to have the same ones based on the report’s findings.

“If we really do want all to have an opportunity to thrive, it gets tough,” Wilson said. “But it’s worth it.”

“You can be committed to staying at the table,” McClure said. “To listening, to finding common ground, and we found among the commission and among the working groups more common ground than we ever expected to find.”

Formed in November 2014 by Gov. Nixon, the group was tasked to examine the underlying issues that came to light after Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, Jr. in August. The report more finely addresses topics like police and court reform in the St. Louis area, as well as steps in education, economics and health.

The “Justice for All” section calls for changes in the way Missouri police departments handle their use of force, particularly the investigation and prosecution of such cases. The state’s Attorney General should serve as a special prosecutor in each death that results in an encounter with an officer, and a special unit of the Missouri State Highway Patrol should handle the investigation, the report said. Each county in Missouri should also have its own civilian oversight board to review any police misconduct or investigations “particularly when local efforts cannot sufficiently address incidents under review.”

The “Youth at the Center” sections focuses on changes in school district’s handling of discipline, and establishing “school based health centers.” These would help prevent illness, the report said, and deal with potential behavioral issues that may lead to suspensions.

The “Opportunity to Thrive” section raises economic and health issues for the community. Wilson highlighted the lower life expectancy in black-majority neighborhoods in St. Louis than white ones, and how healthcare facilities also needed to be accountable in any positive changes made. The report calls for the expansion of Medicaid, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“What we need it not necessarily a method or a model,” Wilson said. “We need a movement. A movement for positive change throughout the St. Louis region that illustartes to the rest of the nation that racial equity is an appropriate goal that can be pursued by a metropolitan area in the heart of America, even within the context of the history of America.”

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information and quotes from the September 14 meeting of the Ferguson Commission.)

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