It doesn’t feel like it’s been three years since ex-cop Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe that’s because Brown’s shooting seems as if it’s been reenacted through police killings that are becoming so overwhelmingly present, it’s impossible to keep count. For the Brown family and most Black Americans, his killing is a wound that continues to be ruptured by the deaths of Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Jordan Edwards and other unarmed Black men.
Nonetheless, it’s been three years since a postmortem Brown was criminalized by media outlets. There was something uniquely jarring about the 18-year-old’s death. It established a pattern that we may not have noticed through the killings of Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner: that the unjust killings of black men by police weren’t going to stop.
Not only have we yet to see a police officer charged with murder for killing our men, the nation’s president is encouraging an already burgeoning culture of police brutality.
Brown’s killing and the circumstances surrounding it began to be referred to as “Ferguson.” All eyes were on the town as it served as a microcosm for the escalating tensions between everyday people and the police.
So how has nothing improved in three years?
In May, Vox reported that at least 2,902 police killings have occurred since Brown died. Less than two weeks after his death, a Black man approached St. Louis police while holding a knife. Rather than tasing, restraining or using one of the other deescalation tactics which seem reserved for white suspects, cops fatally shot Kajieme Powell.
The St. Louis Dispatch reported that on Tuesday night, members of the Ferguson community honored Brown with a makeshift memorial. But the only notable Ferguson figures to take part in the tribute were St. Louis 5th Ward Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge and State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr, D-St. Louis.
NBC News traveled to Ferguson to glean the current conditions and see if anything has changed since the shooting. They spoke to one resident who didn’t believe the town’s police didn’t learn quite enough from the shooting.
“I feel like a lot of the respect that the police used to have, they don’t have,” Donald Harry, who lives in Ferguson, told NBC. “They’ve lost touch with the community.”
But one tangible change in the community can be seen in the racial make-up of its police force.
According to the outlet, there are now 10 black officers in the town’s police department. In 2014, there were just four. Ferguson’s police department also appointed a Black man, Delrish Moss, as its chief of police in 2016.
But Harry isn’t so sure this is making much of a difference.
“What good does it do to have, say, a black police chief and more black officers in the police department, when, one, the citizens don’t respect him and/or the office? And they don’t trust him and/or the office yet?” he asked.
Of course, Chief Moss said he’s hopeful about the community’s progress.
“Change doesn’t come quickly,” he said. “It is a gradual step-by-step process if you want to do it right. The first thing I thought to do was go out and knock door to door. Go to houses and talk to people, find out what they want.”
We don’t know if Moss’ thoughts ever came to fruition. Nor do we know if the relationship between the Ferguson community and its police will ever improve. It’s especially difficult to foresee such advancements in any other city for that matter.