Information about the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown two weeks ago has been slow to trickle in, but a Washington Post article reports that Darren Wilson had a past with a troubled police department.
In fact, the department in the small city of Jennings, Mo., was so troubled with racial tension between black and white officers that the city council disbanded it three years ago. Wilson, one of the white officers, was a rookie when he lost his job. Shortly after, he joined the Ferguson police department.
The department in Jennings hired new officers to replace those fired, creating a “credible” department in the wake of a major scandal.
The Washington Post details Wilson’s police beginnings:
After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.
Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.
“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”
The lawsuits and racist allegations kept coming to the department:
One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach.
The department paid Fuller a confidential sum to settle the case, she said.
But despite the department’s trouble, officers familiar with Wilson say the now 28-year-old had a clean record.
Lt. Jeff Fuesting, who overlapped for about four months with Wilson during a transitional period, described him as “an average officer.”
“My impression is he didn’t go above and beyond, and he didn’t get in any trouble,” Fuesting said.
Robert Orr, the former Jennings police chief who retired in 2010, said of Wilson: “He was a good officer with us. There was no disciplinary action.”
That is, until Wilson shot and killed an unarmed teenager in the Canfield apartment complex two weeks ago. Since then, little information on the officer has been released. The Post reports that Wilson recently petitioned the court seeking a divorce from his wife, Ashley Nicole Wilson. This year, he won a commendation after he subdued a man who was found to be involved in a drug transaction. But life outside of those two details seems non-existent — his ex-wife has remained silent, as well as friends and the police union he belongs to.
We’ll keep you updated as more details regarding Wilson’s life come in. For more on the Jennings department report, click here.
SOURCE: Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Screengrab