Criminal Justice Program Director Kami Chavis Simmons says Ferguson grand jury decision may not mean end of inquiry

Photo of Professor Kami Chavis

Criminal Justice Program Director and Professor Kami Chavis, Associate Dean for Research and Public Engagement

As the nation waits to find out what decision a grand jury has reached about whether to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Wake Forest University School of Law Professor and Criminal Justice Program Director Kami Chavis Simmons says it is critical to note that this will not necessarily be the end of the inquiry no matter the decision.

The panel has been considering charges against Wilson, the white suburban St. Louis officer who fatally shot the black 18-year-old after a confrontation in August. The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office has told the family the decision will be announced after 5 p.m. today, The Associated Press is reporting.

“If this grand jury fails to indict Wilson, the federal government has the authority to pursue a federal criminal investigation against Wilson for civil rights violations,” Simmons explained. “These federal criminal cases, however, are notoriously difficult to prove. Furthermore, the shooting, the handling of the investigation and the police response to protestors have highlighted the need for widespread institutional reform of the Ferguson police department. The federal government has already initiated an investigation in this respect, and Ferguson¬† officials will be forced to take a hard look at the departments’s internal polices and practices.”

Simmons frequently makes presentations on law-enforcement issues and is a leader in the field of police accountability. Her articles have appeared in the American Criminal Law Review, the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the University of Alabama Law Review, and the Catholic University Law Review, and other legal journals. Her research focuses on using Cooperative Federalism principles and stakeholder participation to implement sustainable reforms in the criminal justice system.  She writes in the areas of police and prosecutorial accountability, federal hate crimes legislation and enforcement, and racial profiling. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2012.

Simmons is available for comment and can be reached at 202-905-5264 or simmonkc@wfu.edu