On August 2014, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.
The shooting would become a huge moment in American policing. It led to protests and riots in the St. Louis suburb for weeks, catching national attention as the demonstrations and the police’s aggressive response to the protests were broadcast live on major news channels. The conversation surrounding the shooting — about racial disparities in police use of force — gave rise to the modern Black Lives Matter movement, which has continued protesting police brutality and systemic racism more broadly.
The protests also drew attention from the US Department of Justice. After the shooting, the Justice Department put out a report finding that Ferguson, Missouri, used its police force as a revenue-generating operation by ticketing and fining residents, particularly black people, for petty crimes to net the city as much money as possible. That, too, exposed abuses and racial disparities in policing — fostering a broader conversation about not just police use of force, but the more insidious ways that policing can disproportionately impact black communities.
These issues continue getting attention around the country today. But to understand why, you have to begin with the Michael Brown police shooting and the protests that followed.