Darren Wilson Could Face Consequences Aside From Grand Jury Decision
The grand jury in the case of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson may not have the final word in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Even if the grand jury decides not to indict Wilson, the 28-year-old policeman at the center of the outcry over Brown’s killing, his fate could still hang on a Justice Department investigation, his police officer licensing and a potential civil lawsuit.
The Justice Department investigation carries with it the most serious consequences: the federal agency could bring charges against Wilson for violating Brown’s civil rights. But such charges are rare. More than two years into the investigation of the death of another unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, the department has yet to come to a decision on whether to bring charges against George Zimmerman, the man who killed him.
Law enforcement officials told the Washington Post last month that charges against Wilson were unlikely.
Missouri’s Department of Public Safety, meanwhile, also could take action to strip Wilson’s license. Forty-four states can remove a police officer’s license, and Missouri is one of the most aggressive in doing so.
Unlike many others, the state does not require a police officer to be convicted of a crime before his or her license can be removed. According to the language of state statute, it must prove only that a crime was committed, “whether or not a criminal charge has been filed.”
Still, said Roger Goldman, an expert on police licensing at St. Louis University, “my research suggests that these are difficult cases to win.” Without an indictment, the state could be loathe to proceed with further action against Wilson — a step that likely would be met with howls of protest from police unions.