Wesley Bell: We must talk about implicit bias

The Democrat candidate likely to be the next St. Louis County prosecutor, Wesley Bell, talks to CNN's New Day about the progress he sees in Ferguson, Missouri, four years after the death of Michael Brown.

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 12:56 AM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 1:13 AM

A Missouri Democrat poised to be the next prosecutor for St. Louis County says he's seen progress on racial and cultural issues in Ferguson since the shooting of an unarmed black teenager there four years ago touched off unrest and allegations of bias in the city's law enforcement community.

In an interview with CNN's Erica Hill on "New Day" Thursday morning, Ferguson city councilman Wesley Bell discussed the four-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown and how the community has changed since.

"You know, what I can say in Ferguson and in the region, is that a lot of uncomfortable conversations have been had and people are a lot more comfortable being in those uncomfortable spaces if you will," Bell said.

"We have to be able to talk about implicit bias," Bell continued. "We have to be able to talk about cultural sensitivity because that's the only way we are going to move our region, our country forward in a meaningful way."

Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor whom Bell defeated on Tuesday, was widely criticized for his handling of the investigation into the conduct of Officer Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot and killed Brown after a brief altercation in a street in Ferguson in 2014.

Wilson was never charged in connection with the case, which eventually touched off a Justice Department probe that accused the Ferguson police department of systematic racial bias. The Justice Department also said its investigation did not support federal civil rights charges against Wilson.

The decision not to indict Wilson set off massive protests in Ferguson that led to rioting and an extreme police crackdown on the city which gained national attention.

Bell, who is black, said he would've handled the Brown case differently as prosecutor by appointing a special prosecutor in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.

"There is a relationship between the prosecutors' office and law enforcement," Bell said. "I, as a municipal court prosecutor, I work with officers all the time, some of my best friends are officers. And so there is an inherent conflict of interest because if you tell me one of my friends committed a crime, I think anyone just naturally is going to disbelieve it."

Bell soundly defeated McCulloch, who is white, in a primary election on Tuesday. There is no Republican opponent in the race, and Bell will run unopposed in November.

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