ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – “There is to be a tremendous amount of credit given to the peaceful protestors.”
With that statement, John Gaskin with the St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP kicked off Thursday night’s discussion of the Stockley verdict during a town hall meeting at T-Rex in downtown St. Louis.
“Julian Bond once said ‘Good things don’t come to those who wait, good things come to those who agitate’,” Gaskin continued. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to get some change in this region.”
Gaskin’s group convened an expert panel to take a closer look at the meaning of the Stockley verdict that has touched off widespread protests, and to try and figure out the best path forward.
Panelists included Lt. Col. Troy Doyle with the St. Louis County police department.
“I didn’t have any intimate knowledge of the case, I just knew what was being reported in the media,” Doyle said of the decision announced last Friday not to indict former city police officer Jason Stockley in connection with the 2011 killing of motorist Anthony Lamar Smith. “I was a bit surprised (at the verdict) based on what I knew. Obviously the judge came up with the decision that he felt was right, but when the verdict came out I immediately started fielding phone calls from family members who couldn’t believe it, they were shocked.”
To State Representative Steven Roberts the answer is better training for officers.
“For example, I think de-escalation training, independent prosecutors, and training on implict bias is critical going forward,” he said.
Fellow state rep. Bruce Franks agreed with Roberts, to a point.
“You can do all the implicit bias training in the world, that’s not going to change racism,” according to Franks. “That’s not going to change what a person feels about a particular race.”
He added that in the past, as with the Ferguson protests of three years ago, a few weeks or months pass and everyone seems to forget about the need for change and move on with their lives.
“Not this time,” he pledged, saying demonstrations will continue in the streets of St. Louis. “Y’all have to feel it, so however long that is just brace yourself because we know what the issues are, we know what the solutions are. At the end of the day they (police) have to understand that they will stop killing us.”
About 100 people attended the town hall session and got a chance to weigh in on the issue, as well.