Darren Wilson may have resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, but a group of attorneys wants the controversial officer stripped of his right to carry a badge anywhere in Missouri.
In a nine-page petition, the National Bar Association — the country’s oldest and largest group of African American attorneys and judges — asks the Missouri Department of Public Safety to revoke Wilson’s law enforcement license.
Last month, a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict Wilson, who is white, for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. A federal civil rights investigation continues, but the likelihood of charges being brought is slim, since Wilson has testified he was in fear for his life at the time of the shooting.
“Until the legal system is fixed, until the jury system is fixed, until there's an independent prosecutor, until there's an independent investigation of these types of events, we are researching the possibility of doing this around the nation,” Pamela Meanes, National Bar Association president, told Yahoo News on Tuesday.
Missouri's 17,500 officers are licensed by the DPS. By law, the state's top cop can discipline officers who have “committed any criminal offense, whether or not a criminal charge has been filed.”
Among other claims, the bar association alleges Wilson assaulted and murdered the 18-year-old Brown. The petition requests that DPS Director Daniel Isom immediately suspend Wilson’s license and to seek to have it permanently dismissed.
Isom, who was appointed by the governor after weeks of unrest over Brown's death, did not immediately return an email seeking comment. DPS spokesperson Mike O’Connell acknowledged receiving the group’s complaint. Citing state privacy statutes, O'Connell would only say by email that Wilson’s “license is valid and he is eligible to be hired as a Peace Officer by another department.”
Wilson, 28, has been a Missouri officer since 2009, when he went to work for the now-defunct Jennings Police Department. He had been with the Ferguson department for three years before resigning 10 days ago, citing on-going threats of violence.
To prevent Wilson from working as a police officer in Missouri forever, Isom would have to seek a ruling from the state's Administrative Hearing Commission. That board said Tuesday that no such request has been filed. Since 2010, an average of 23 officers have had their license revoked each year in Missouri.
Neil Bruntrager, one of Wilson’s attorneys, says he doubts his client will ever work in law enforcement again, but that he doesn’t see the former officer letting his license go without a fight.
“I suspect if they decide to (have an administrative hearing), he will certainly defend himself and should defend himself under the circumstances, because I don't believe there were any rules violations in this thing,” Bruntrager told Yahoo News. “It’s a matter of reputation. It’s a matter of pride.”
Bruntrager said Wilson remains unemployed, with a new wife and a child on the way.
“I guess the initial blush is gone,” the attorney said. “Now he's got to face all these hard questions ... what do you do and how do you make ends meet until you can do it?”
Meanes said Wilson’s leaving Ferguson and uncertainty about a future in law enforcement will not deter her group’s larger efforts. She said the NBA is researching the licensing process in dozens of other cities and states where excess force has been used against black citizens.
“Until there is some form of teaching officers to de-escalate a situation similar to how they do with suspects who are not African American, until we are at that point, we think it's in the best interest of the public that those individual licenses are removed,” she said.
In his testimony to the grand jury, Wilson described the neighborhood where he killed Brown as a “hostile environment.”
“That's not an area where you can take anything,” he said.
Meanes, a veteran civil litigator in St. Louis, said another goal of pushing for the disciplining of officers is to get U.S. police departments to conduct more frequent and meaningful diversity training.
“Officers work for us, not the other way around,” Meanes said. “They are hired to protect us. We can’t have officers who are afraid to police communities because they fear those individuals.”
Yahoo News asked Ferguson and state officials about Wilson’s diversity training, but was told those records are private under state law.
Meanes said she isn't sure when or if Isom will respond to their petition. His office told the bar association that any administrative procedure must be held in confidence.
“It's another secret process,” she said. “Police officers investigating themselves doesn't always turnout in the right way.”
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).