The city of Ferguson would do well to follow the lead of Miami-Dade County and create a Community Relations Board, whose purpose it is to identify and intervene to reduce tensions surrounding events such as the tragic shooting of Michael Brown.
As Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pointed out in his statement just before the announcement that the Ferguson grand jury declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson, our CRB plays a central role in keeping the peace here at home. The Miami-Dade County CRB has become a nationwide model.
The community’s nonviolent reaction following last year’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case underscores the important work and peaceful outcomes that can result from the kind of proactive, ongoing — get out in front of the problem — approach a broad-based, ethnically representative organization such as the CRB can foster.
Emotions are so high right now in Ferguson that it may be that nothing could have stopped the unfortunate, violent reaction from some following the grand jury’s announcement.
But imagine what might have been if, all along, community dialogues and forums had been going on in an organized manner, giving all involved public opportunities for expressing their grievances and seeking solutions in partnership with the police and community leaders.
Prosecutor Robert McCullough called for peaceful community dialogue during his announcement of the grand jury’s decision. It appears to have been too little, too late.
The CRB stands ready and willing to assist any community, including Ferguson, in establishing a CRB of their own.
Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson, chair
Ed Shohat, vice chair
Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, Miami