By Kurtis Lee
Los Angeles Times
Nov. 30–The mayor of Ferguson, Mo., announced Sunday that the city would establish a civilian review board to monitor police conduct and would actively recruit more African American officers.
But Mayor James Knowles III said there would be no imminent changes in the leadership of the Police Department.
Knowles’ remarks at a news conference came a day after Officer Darren Wilson resigned from the police force in the wake of violence and international criticism over Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man.
The mayor said the proposed changes would help improve the predominantly white police department’s relationship with Ferguson’s predominantly African American residents.
“We are committed to rebuilding our city,” Knowles said. “And a part of that is having officers invested in the community.”
Over the next several months, Knowles said, the city will unveil a program in local public schools that will seek to forge a bond between police officers and young people. That is in addition to the planned civilian review board and the recruitment of more African Americans.
“We are here for you and will not leave you,” Knowles told residents.
For much of the last week, sometimes-violent protests have roiled the St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 after a grand jury declined to indict Wilson, who shot and killed Brown on Aug. 9.
When Wilson resigned Saturday, he said in a letter that he was told his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk.”
“It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal,” Wilson wrote. “I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process.”
Wilson’s lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, said the officer had resigned after learning of threats of violence against other officers and the department.
Knowles said Sunday he was unaware of any specific threats to Wilson and did not give him a deadline for a resignation. He also said that Wilson did not receive severance pay.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Sunday he would not resign, despite widespread criticism from protesters and calls for him to step down.
“My focus has been on safety and security of citizens,” Jackson said. “I report to the leadership of Ferguson. I’m concerned about the city. I will not resign.”
Jackson said he spoke with Wilson last week and was unaware of any specific threats to him. But Jackson added, “It’s been a threatening environment all along. Everybody knows that.”
Knowles said that the city will do everything in its power to help the businesses that burned in the riots rebuild as soon as possible. As of now, he said, there is no cost estimate for the damaged property in Ferguson.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called a special legislative session so lawmakers can allocate state funds for rebuilding efforts in Ferguson.
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a civil investigation into the Ferguson Police Department to see if it has a pattern of using excessive force or racial profiling. The Justice Department is also conducting a criminal investigation of Wilson, but experts say that a federal indictment is unlikely because the government would have to prove that Wilson purposely violated Brown’s civil rights.