Recently, Governor Mike Parson announced that his continuing efforts to involve federal law enforcement in state matters through Operation LeGend will expand to St. Louis. Operation LeGend is supposed to be a federal anti-crime program. According to the United States attorney, it launched in July in several cities, ostensibly to assist city police in high-crime areas with a particular focus on gangs.
Some kinds of violence between citizens in urban areas are decried as “absolutely intolerable” by the state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Missouri has open cases such as Tory Sanders, who was murdered in a Mississippi County Jail cell by 11 law enforcement officers, and there’s no prosecution. In Kansas City and St. Louis, there are police shootings of African Americans that won’t ever be touched by Operation LeGend.
In a country where the rule of law is equivalent to justice when applied equally, the Missouri NAACP Travel Advisory issued in 2017 rings as true now as when it first went into effect.
Murders in the state, wherever they occur by law-enforcement, are not getting prosecuted except with rare exceptions. Tory Sanders died just as George Floyd did with a knee on his neck. Still, the same federal agents in the U.S. attorney’s office and the Missouri attorney general‘s office have refused to prosecute the killers with badges. Interesting that now they can devote endless resources to the prosecution of presumed killers of color in urban areas.
As St. Louis County NAACP President John Bowman said, “This is a political stunt. Missouri’s history of racial inequity goes back to before it was a state. A system of unequal justice applied to people of color in the face of clear violations of Constitutionally protected rights to life, liberty, and property. This is one of the issues the NAACP in St. Louis County and Missouri seeks to resolve.”
Time is up. The failure of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to prosecute the murder of Tory Sanders shows the callousness and indifference in which the law is applied when a victim is a person of color versus the accused killer being a person of color. Missouri death penalty cases show this is also true; whether an individual is more likely to receive a death penalty is based on his skin color and the skin color of the victim. Research shows that a Black assailant with a Caucasian victim is 14 times more likely to receive a death sentence than a Caucasian assailant and Black victim.
This is the stark reality of injustice that Missouri is presenting to its residents and visitors to the state. The Missouri NAACP Travel Advisory is still in effect. In the worst situations, it could cost you your life, the ability to seek justice, and the security of knowing that you matter.
Nimrod Chapel Jr. is president, Missouri State Conference of the NAACP.