Michael Brown

Darren Wilson in Negotiations to Resign from Ferguson Police Department


Darren Wilson

Officer Darren Wilson, who shot an unarmed Michael Brown in August, leading to months of protest, is reportedly "negotiating" a resignation from the Ferguson Police Department with city officials, according to CNN, which reports that the talks are dependent on the grand jury decision expected tomorrow but not how. Wilson tells friends he wants to resign to "ease pressure and protect his fellow officers."

It's not a bad idea but probably won't dampen any protests if the grand jury decides not to indict Darren Wilson. Given the question marks about what happened the day Wilson shot Brown, an indictment seems highly unlikely as it doesn't appear there's enough evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly considering in Missouri it is legal for cops to shoot people they believe they've seen commiting a felony, like assaulting a cop. Even though Wilson is in a position of power, authorized to use force in a way "civilians" aren't, it's important that due process protections extend to him, too, especially in the face of public pressure in the other direction.

The problem, as I've written about since this happened, is that police unions have helped produce rules that produce bad actors. While no one should go to jail based on the public's opinion of them, that shouldn't extend to employment, especially public employment in a position that requires significant interaction with the public.

Companies cut ties with people over appearances all the time. No rational person would argue someone like Ray Rice was deprived of any due process for losing endorsement deals or even his NFL contract without being convicted of a crime. Those endorsements and contracts are privileges. Wilson may not be paid nearly as much—NBC News has made a point to lament the low pay of St. Louis-area cops like him—but his job, like all public and private jobs, is a privilege too. One the city should've had the power to revoke in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, potentially avoiding months of protest and community tension. Instead we have this farce, where a disgraced cop is negotiating an exit while the threat of a politically expedient but legally unsound indictment hangs over him.