WASHINGTON • If you ever wanted a demonstration of the philosophical differences on governing and federalism between Missouri's two U.S. senators, it came last week after Attorney General Eric Holder announced he had ordered a broader probe of the practices of the Ferguson Police Department beyond its separate investigation of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have each welcomed, to a degree, the Justice Department's involvement after the death of Brown, 18, who was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. But while McCaskill views federal intervention as essential to a positive outcome, Blunt has been cautionary in his rhetoric about Holder's involvement. It is a subtle, yet telling, difference.
In the aftermath of Holder's announcement last week, McCaskill noted that many of the nation's most important reforms did not take place until there was federal intervention.
"Historically, the federal government has been the tip of the spear for many civil rights actions in our country," McCaskill told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. "A lot of the reforms that we are proud of in this country didn't start at the state and local level. It was the enforcement by the federal government." She said action by the federal government to "really thorough look at police practices" in Ferguson could be "important for catharsis in the community."
Appearing on KSDK in St. Louis a day later, Blunt said he had actually issued a cautionary note to Holder about what he expected from the federal involvement.
"Nobody should assume that these problems are going to be solved there (in Washington, D.C.)," Blunt said. "One of the things I've told the attorney general is that you can play a constructive role here but don't assume that means taking over the jobs that local people at the end of the day have been chosen to do and ... have a responsibility to do."
Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. A St. Louis County grand jury is hearing evidence on the case, and Holder's Justice Department is conducting a separate, parallel investigation into the shooting itself.
The fact that local authorities have not resisted Justice intervention—as has happened elsewhere—has helped mute these philosophical divisions between Blunt and McCaskill. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles publicly welcomed the broader Justice look at practices and procedures of his city and its police department. And St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar has agreed to a separate "collaborative reform effort" in which the feds will advise on things like community-oriented policing practices. (Chuck Raasch)
ON THE WEB:
Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on expanded investigation of Ferguson:
Department of Justice documents on agreements and investigations of police departments around the country (scroll to "Law Enforcement."):
HE SAID IT: "People say Chris Kelly is very knowledgeable and easy to work with. They're half right." —Missouri state Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence. Kelly, a famously opinionated longtime Democratic House member from Columbia, is leaving office after this week's legislative session.
—This report was compiled by Post-Dispatch political reporter Kevin McDermott.