Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Clinton breaks silence on Ferguson, calls for fixing justice system

Hillary Clinton breaks silence on Ferguson, calls for fixing racial inequality in justice system.
Clinton balances criticism of justice system with praise for 'decent,' 'respectful' police in Ferguson

Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing events in Ferguson, Mo., for the first time, said Thursday she was heartbroken by the police shooting of Michael Brown and called for the country to address the racial inequalities that skew the criminal justice system.

“We can do better,” she said in lengthy remarks closing a speech at a technology conference in San Francisco. “We can’t ignore the inequalities that persist in our justice system that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality.”

She expressed horror at the TV images of heavily armed police officers confronting protesters in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb. “Nobody wants to see our streets like a war zone,” Clinton said. “Not in America. We are better than that.”

But she leavened the criticism with praise for “the many decent and respectful law enforcement officers who showed what quality law enforcement looks like” and lauded President Obama for dispatching Atty. Gen. Eric Holder to Ferguson as part of “a thorough and speedy investigation.”

Clinton, the overwhelming frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, had been criticized for failing to weigh in on the events in Ferguson, where the shooting of the unarmed Brown sparked days of violent protests.

The still-disputed circumstances of Brown’s death and the heavily armed police response to the subsequent demonstrations have sparked a nationwide debate on race and the use of police force.

Most of the prospective 2016 presidential contenders have avoided comment on the events in Ferguson, or been circumspect.

A notable exception was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who broke with Republicans’ traditional hard line on law and order by publishing a Time magazine essay — while protesters were still in the street — mixing a condemnation of heavy-handed policing with criticism of how the justice system treats minorities.

“Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention,” Paul wrote.

More typical was the response of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who counseled caution before making any judgments.

“We should take a deep breath, sit back and let law enforcement do their job,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on SiriusXM during a tour to promote his new book. “Let the investigation take place so that the facts can be taken as the facts, and let justice be done appropriately.”

In her remarks Thursday, Clinton echoed many of the sentiments that Paul expressed.

"Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around," she said. “If white offenders received prison sentences 10 times longer than black offenders for the same crime.”

She urged members of the audience to look around and, considering the high rate of incarceration for black males, imagine that one-third of those attending were locked away. “That is the reality,” she said, “of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live.”

Clinton did not address the controversy surrounding the police release of a videotape showing Brown apparently shoplifting cigarillos before his confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson.  Rather, she spoke of the emotions she felt “as a mother and a human being” watching Brown’s funeral earlier this week.

“My heart just broke for his family,” she said, “because losing a child is every parent’s greatest fear and an unimaginable loss.”

mark.barabak@latimes.com

Follow @markzbarabak for more political news and analysis

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • USM names former Towson president Caret as new chancellor
    USM names former Towson president Caret as new chancellor

    The University System of Maryland has named Robert Caret, president at the University of Massachusetts System and a former president at Towson University, as its next chancellor, system officials confirmed on Wednesday.

  • Hogan names four Cabinet secretaries
    Hogan names four Cabinet secretaries

    Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan announced his first four cabinet appointments Wednesday, tapping veterans from both the O'Malley and Ehrlich administrations along with a Republican state delegate and a businesswoman from Laurel.

  • New U.S. plan aims to stop seafood fraud and black market
    New U.S. plan aims to stop seafood fraud and black market

    Addressing growing concerns over seafood fraud, a presidential task force called Tuesday for expanded enforcement and a new program giving consumers more information about the origins of the imported fish, crab and other seafood they eat.

  • Sony cancels Christmas release date of 'The Interview'
    Sony cancels Christmas release date of 'The Interview'

    Sony says it is canceling the Christmas Day release of "The Interview" in light of the decision by theaters not to show the film. Sony released a statement saying, "We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

  • The year in Baltimore Sun pictures
    The year in Baltimore Sun pictures

    The Sun's photo staff effort to bring compelling images that draw the viewer to the pages of the newspaper and baltimoresun.com. The pictures in this blog post are samples of their work in 2014.

  • Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
    Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

    Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the performance on special teams and more.

Comments
Loading