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Q&A: Hazel Erby, St. Louis County Councilwoman

The Missouri Times spoke with Hazel Erby for series of Q&A’s with lawmakers on the unfolding events in Ferguson.

The Missouri Times: Right now, can you describe your take on the situation in Ferguson?

Hazel Erby
Hazel Erby

Hazel Erby: We’re trying to get a fair, transparent, decision about the police officer who did the shooting. Right now, there’s a lot of doubt about what the real information is, and the people who are on the ground down there are working to make sure we are getting the truth. It almost seems to me, the witnesses seem to verify the coroner’s report that Michael Brown had his hands up and was trying to give in. With what they have now in terms of evidence, I believe they could go ahead and arrest the police officer involved. In terms of the prosecuting attorney, Bob McCulloch, you would think that he would think it’s in his best interest to step down since people don’t trust his fairness. If that was me, I wouldn’t want to be the one to go ahead with it. I think in all fairness, he should step down.

The situation between he and governor is also concerning. He’s called the governor out and said it’s your decision, make it. Why he’s procrastinating… I don’t understand why he won’t go ahead and take the prosecutor off the case and put somebody in to give a transparent and fair prosecution or case.

TMT:What have you seen happening in Ferguson that can be impacted by your role as an elected official?

HE: I’m concerned with so many things. The main thing that really concerns me, as a person who has worked with this community for the past 10 years I’ve done council and past 5 or 6 years that we’ve had this particular mayor. I think the mayor and the city council have not done a good job of coming forward and being sensitive of the needs of the community. They haven’t even addressed their community. The city council hasn’t said anything to residents of Ferguson. This whole thing, it’s totally been boggled by the mayor, chief of police, city council and the police department. As far as I’m concerned they are guilty, not as guilty, but somewhat as guilty as well. They have not done right by citizens. The other night in an interview with Chris Hayes the mayor said there was no racial problem in Ferguson and I think Chris Hayes said back to him: have you been watching the news?

TMT: What’s the best case and worst-case scenarios for Ferguson over the coming month?

HE: I recognize and applaud the citizens who are protesting and letting their voices be heard in a peaceful manner. If they are going to drag this thing out, I don’t see these folks protesting all their time away. If they want to then I’m glad for them, but these folks won’t be able to go for a long time if they drag this out. The best-case scenario is for McCulloch to remove himself and that this go ahead and an expedient and transparent investigation takes place.”

If he insists on remaining there, and as the events unfold if they aren’t keeping honest, if they give tidbits of information benefitting the officer only but not being truthful, it could get worse and I think it will cause further outrage.

TMT: What would you say to statewide elected officials in Missouri about what actions they should consider in light of Ferguson?

HE: One of the ways to address this whole situation is to say that racial profiling is going on throughout St. Louis County and country and it needs to stop. That has not been addressed. I spoke at a church the other night and a gentleman from New Jersey said that have legislation regarding racial profiling making it a crime you can be arrested for being found guilty. Our state legislature needs to take that up. It’s not going away, it’s been there forever and we need to do something about.

TMT: Does St. Louis have a race problem? Does Missouri?

HE: I live in St. Louis, so I can’t speak to all of Missouri. But I know a majority of municipalities in this area have some kind of racial problem. I witnessed St. Louis City Officers stop three men walking to park at night, bouncing a basketball. There was a basketball goal in sight, and they were walking to it. Officers in the SUV cut them off. They drove their car across sidewalk and cut in front of them. You would think they were after a robber or someone who murdered someone. I told my husband, I said, don’t go anywhere, I want to stay and see this through.

They harassed those men. They asked them all kinds of questions that weren’t even necessary. “Where you from? Why you here? Do you have jobs?” They held them for at least 10 minutes. When they finally let them go, the young men walked toward the goal, bouncing the ball, and the officers went back into SUV and they were both laughing. That’s what these young men go through all the time and its not just young men. Young women have told me stories of being harassed. I’ve heard of elected officials being stopped by police and them using the N word. One lady is a school board member in another municipality in this area, and she had someone use that word and total harass her. There is no reason to be stopped and treated that way in St. Louis City or St. Louis County.

TMT: Would you support placing body cameras on police officers if it were financially viable?

HE: Yes. The majority of police officers are good people and take their jobs serious to protect and to serve. I think there’s a handful, always the way it is, who think otherwise. I think the magnitude of this, I think the cameras would be a good idea.