Local Professor: Lessons from Ferguson


By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- Public protests continue in Ferguson, Mo., since a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Seth Stoughton, a local criminal law professor sounds off about it.

Seth Stoughton is a former police officer on the front line of racial riots, similar to what we've seen in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath teenager Mike Brown's shooting death by police. He says there are a few thing officers with any police force should keep in mind.

"Officers should remember they work for everyone," said Stoughton. "The police officer works for the criminal he's arresting just as much as the victim whose crime report he's just taken."

He says police in any city need to remember they are public servants--not soldiers in a war zone fighting people who might not look like them.

"When a police officer is interacting with a teenage black male, he might wanna treat him equally to the teenage white female he dealt with earlier in the day."

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott agrees.

"Taking and putting someone in an armed state like that scares everybody," said Lott.

As a criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina, Stoughton admits force by police is inevitable, and sometimes, even deadly force is necessary. However, he claims Ferguson can overcome, if three things take place.

"First, law enforcement has to reach out to the community. Secondly, the community needs to respond," said Stoughton.

Thirdly, he says the question of how police departments are regulated needs to be re-examined.

"We have 18,000 police agencies in the country and 15,000 are police and county sheriff's departments. Who are they accountable to?

A final lesson from Ferguson, Stoughton says, is civil unrest there didn't begin overnight, and it won't be resolved overnight."
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