In the months since Michael Brown was shot to death on a street in Ferguson, the state of the city and the St. Louis region have been painstakingly studied. That has included two detailed Justice Department reports and an incredible amount of journalistic coverage. Now comes yet another report: the findings of the “Ferguson Commission” created by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
The report, “Forward Through Ferguson,” is a sprawling project, laid out in a slickly designed website and a 189-page document. It offers detailed recommendations for reforming the police, the courts, and the education system with an eye toward racial justice.
But while the report looks like a policy recommendation, the authors shy away from that: “Our primary audience for this report is the people of the St. Louis region,” they write. “With that in mind, we have written this report to speak to an audience of average citizens— not lawyers, legislators, academics, politicians, or policy wonks.” In addition, they caution that “while this report includes many specific policy calls to action, it is not an implementation plan.”
They’re on to something. The report is so vast as to raise questions about its utility or even its point. Many of the proposals in the report fit with what other people have recommended, including the portions on police reform. Others appeal to a fairly basic, if left-leaning, common sense: If schools are better, fewer children will end up in the justice system; proving affordable health care to impoverished communities will improve their well-being. Creating a public-transit system will enable the poor to work more easily.