“When something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities,” said President Obama in his reaction to the tragic mess in Ferguson, Mo. Open and transparent — Obama gave a calm and measured response, but he was absolutely right. If only the police in Ferguson had chosen honesty and openness instead of secrecy and selectivity, things might have been different.
Accurate information on the incident — an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a white officer Aug. 9 — was withheld for days by tight-lipped police. The name of the officer, the circumstances of the shooting, the police report, where and how many times the victim Michael Brown was shot, remained closely held and not released as tension mounted. Then Ferguson police released video and an incident report of a convenience store shoplifting allegedly committed by Brown, then hours later admitted that it had nothing to do with the shooting and the officer involved knew nothing about it. It looked like a crude effort to smear the victim, compounded by the police department’s lack of transparency. “The Ferguson Police Department’s actions appear misleading and remarkably cynical,” said the ACLU. “Ferguson police are doing little to instill confidence,” said the editors of The Washington Post.