Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said he thinks President Obama isn’t heading to Ferguson, Mo., because he doesn’t want to be viewed as influencing the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation in the Michael Brown shooting.
The administration sent Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson after the August shooting to try to calm tensions and hear from stakeholders.
After that trip, Holder broadened the DOJ investigation to probe the practices of the police department in general.
Patrick worked in the Justice Department in the Clinton administration as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
He told NBC on Sunday that “it is a higher bar” for the DOJ to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson. “It’s a consideration about whether there’s been a violation of civil or constitutional rights. That is different from what the grand jury in a state prosecution has to consider,” he said. “And it will be a tough case to prove.”
Patrick added that “without knowing all of the facts, of course, I wanted to see an indictment, mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community and because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed young black teenagers.”
“But the facts and the process as the president says does have to be respected. That is separate and apart from the anxieties so many black people have about encounters with law enforcement, the anxiety that some in law enforcement have about encounters with black people and the startling lack of understanding between the two.”
He was asked about Obama’s reluctance to go to Ferguson.
“I think he wants to go, by the way, and because I know that, I just sense that, knowing the man, I think he would like to be there to comfort the family of Michael Brown, who are having to relive this tragedy all over again and to reassure both the community at large and the community of law enforcement,” Patrick said.
“You still don’t want to appear, I think, as president, to influence that investigation. I think also that the president is in a really, really tough place, trying to be and having been elected to serve as president of the whole country and being — and having higher expectations on issues related to race. And I have experienced that at home.”
Patrick recalled a murder in Boston where the boy’s mother publicly asked where the governor was.
“Now governors are not normally expected to come to street crime scenes,” he said. “She had not called out the mayor but we had run a very grassroots campaign so we had engaged a lot of people and the expectations of me, by virtue of being a black elected official, were different and I had to learn that and ultimately I did go out.”