Thursday, August 21, 2014

TPM: Princeton Study: The US is no longer a democracy

Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral 'Oligarchy' Study Tells You What It Means
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researchers note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's [April] ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

"Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."
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Link to Talking Points Memo interview by Sahil Kapur with Martin Gilens (follows on study by Princeton's Martin Gilens and Northwestern's Benjamin I. Page, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens"):

The story hit, April 18, 2014, but earlier in the month similar views echoed in the press and on the Internet. The Resist Privatization of America blog linked to articles by Robert Reich.
An Invitation to American Oligarchy
Friday, 04 April 2014
We’re going to combine two separate articles written by Robert Reich in this post. First, ICYMI, is an explanation of how America is becoming an oligarchy–putting the preferences of the vast majority of Americans behind the aims of the oligarchs who are willing to buy legislation that will favor themselves.
Second, is a new post – also penned by Robert Reich – about how the conservative, activist U.S. Supreme Court is moving us quickly away from democracy and toward an oligarchy. It has exacerbated this problem by taking away the voices of those who cannot buy such legislation–essentially the 99%.

Slouching Toward Oligarch
America is not yet an oligarchy, but that’s where Charles and David Koch and a few other billionaires are taking us.
American democracy used to depend on political parties that more or less represented most of us. Political scientists of the 1950s and 1960s marveled at American “pluralism,” by which they meant the capacities of parties and other membership groups to reflect the preferences of the vast majority of citizens.
Then around a quarter century ago, as income and wealth began concentrating at the top, the Republican and Democratic parties started to morph into mechanisms for extracting money, mostly from wealthy people.
Finally, after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, billionaires began creating their own political mechanisms, separate from the political parties. They now give big money directly to political candidates of their choice, and mount their own media campaigns to sway public opinion toward their own views.
So far in the 2014 election cycle, Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers‘ political front group, has aired more than 17,000 broadcast TV commercials, compared with only 2,100 aired by Republican Party groups.
Americans for Prosperity has also been outspending top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races Republicans are targeting this year. In seven of the nine races, the difference in total spending is at least 2-to-1, and Democratic super PACs have had virtually no air presence in five of the nine states.
The Kochs have spawned several imitators. Through the end of February, four of the top five contributors to 2014 super PACs are now giving money to political operations they themselves created, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
For example, billionaire TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his son, Todd, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, have their own $25 million political operation called Ending Spending. The group is now investing heavily in TV ads against Republican Rep. Walter Jones in a North Carolina primary. (They blame Jones for too often voting with President Obama.) Their ad attacking Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire for supporting Obama’s health-care law has become a template for similar ads funded by the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity in Senate races across the country.
Last week, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (worth an estimated $37.9 billion) interviewed potential Republican candidates whom he might fund in what’s being called the “Sheldon Primary.”
“Certainly the ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary for any Republican running for president,” Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, told the Washington Post. “It goes without saying that anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.”
The new billionaire political bosses aren’t limited to Republicans. Democratic-leaning billionaires Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager, and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, have also created their own political groups.
But even if the two sides were equal, billionaires squaring off against each other isn’t remotely a democracy. When billionaires supplant political parties, candidates are beholden directly to the billionaires. And if and when those candidates win election, the billionaires will be completely in charge.
In his much-talked-about new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” economist Thomas Piketty explains why the rich have become steadily richer while the share of national income going to wages continues to drop. He shows that when wealth is concentrated in relatively few hands, and the income generated by that wealth grows more rapidly than the overall economy — as has been the case in the United States and many other advanced economies for years — the richest receive almost all the income growth.
Logically, this leads to greater and greater concentrations of income and wealth in the future — dynastic fortunes that are handed down from generation to generation, as they were prior to the 20th century in much of the world.
The trend was reversed temporarily in the 20th century by the Great Depression, two terrible wars, the development of the modern welfare state and strong labor unions. But Piketty is justifiably concerned about the future. A new Gilded Age is starting to look a lot like the old one.
The only way to stop this is through concerted political action. Yet the only large-scale political action we’re witnessing is that of Charles and David Koch and their billionaire imitators.
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SCOTUS is Inviting an American Oligarchy

The former secretary of labor on the Court’s shameful McCutcheon decision –
and where we go from here

If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be as dangerous. But by taking “Citizen’s United” one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an invitation to oligarchy.
Almost limitless political donations coupled with America’s dramatically widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.
That the richest four hundred Americans now have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans put together, the wealthiest 1 percent own over 35 percent of the nation’s private assets, and 95 percent of all the economic gains since the start of the recovery in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent — all of this is cause for worry, and not just because it means the middle class lacks the purchasing power necessary to get the economy out of first gear.
It is also worrisome because such great concentrations of wealth so readily compound themselves through politics, rigging the game in their favor and against everyone else. “McCutcheon” merely accelerates this vicious cycle.
As Thomas Piketty shows in his monumental “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this was the pattern in advanced economies through much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And it is coming to be the pattern once again.
Picketty is pessimistic that much can be done to reverse it (his sweeping economic data suggest that slow growth will almost automatically concentrate great wealth in a relatively few hands). But he disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations often inspire — such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era, or the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the first welfare state.
Both of these articles are written by Robert B. Reich, the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, currently The Goldman School of Public Policy, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, at the University of California Berkeley.
* * *  In May, In These Times emphasized the importance of the April Supreme Court McCutcheon ruling. Oligarchy Enshrined: Why the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling is good news for the super-rich and bad news for progressive Democrats.

[The critical excerpt on the changes under the Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. FEC decision follows below. The McCutcheon decision follows on the windfall for money-dominated politics that snowballed with Citizens United. But as In These Times reminds us, it was the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision that started the weakening of campaign finance laws.]
The Supreme Court has simply afforded our privileged elite more options. Citizens United infamously allows unlimited outside spending on elections. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, Super PACs spent close to $1 billion—including millions from undisclosed donors. Still, that was a fraction of the whopping $7 billion tab for the total election.
McCutcheon opens up more attractive investment opportunities for the politically inclined super-rich, particularly for those who prefer the personal touch of a direct contribution over the anonymity of a super PAC. Whereas a pre-McCutcheon donor was capped at $123,200 total in a given election cycle, she’s now free to spend as she pleases—so long as each donation respects the $5,800-per-candidate-per-race contribution limit still in effect. As Justice Elena Kagan observed, if one considers each party’s 435 House candidates, 33 Senate candidates, 50 state committees and three main fundraising committees, a single donor can give as much as $3.5 million in direct contributions each cycle.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, about 600 donors gave close to the legal limit of $123,200 in the last election.
The portrait of this donor class is predictable: A Huffington Post analysis that focused on a smaller group of McCutcheon-limit donors found that almost half came from the financial services sector. Others hailed from the energy industry, law practices and miscellaneous business ventures. A solid majority gave to Republicans.
McCutcheon doesn’t just make it easier for the rich to give. It also makes it easier for parties and committees to aggressively court them—something that can’t be said for Citizens United.
The three main fundraising committees of each party no longer have to compete amongst themselves to win the maximum allowable $32,400 contribution from a single donor. Before McCutcheon, contributions to party committees were capped at $32,400 total per election cycle. However, since the ruling, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) can now ask the same Greenwich, Connecticut, hedge-fund manager to write each of them a $32,400 check. (These Democratic organizations declined to comment on how McCutcheon impacts their fundraising strategy.)
The Court’s ruling means that the field of influential political players will continue to shrink, according to Biersack. This trend, already fueled by an unprecedented acceleration of economic inequality, was sent into hyperdrive by Citizens United.
“What [McCutcheon] does is magnify something that was already happening,” Biersack says. “It puts the focus of political professionals of all kinds, including candidates and office-holders, on a very small group of people and institutions that have big capital resources that the political professionals need and want.”
Citizens United introduced Americans to the comically nefarious Super PACMcCutcheon will familiarize voters with newly empowered “joint fundraising committees.” These committees have been popular among the major fundraisers of both parties because they are able to sweep up large sums of money at a time. For example, in 2012 donors were able to write a single megacheck to joint fundraising committees, such as the Romney Victory Fund, which then divvied up the donations among all players: the presidential campaign, the national party committee and participating state party committees. Often used at events featuring candidate appearances, joint-fund-raising committees allow less prominent candidates or state committees to piggyback on the big name draws that command the fat checks. The old aggregate limits restricted how many entities could link up under a single joint fundraising committee. However, under McCutcheon, these super committees have become cash-guzzling monstrosities capable of swallowing up a seven-figure check from a single donor in one big gulp, then regurgitating it out to all participating committee members. Party officials can now “essentially go to one donor who’s willing and able to give $3.5 million, and ask for that kind of money dispersed to various candidates,” says John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People, a group that advocates for public financing of elections.
The $3.5-million-check scenario is unlikely, as a committee would need to include all the party’s federal candidates. But the larger the pool of participants in these committees grows, the larger the checks can be. On April 9, one week after the ruling, the three main Republican fundraising committees—the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)—joined forces to form theRepublican Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee. The Victory Fund is allowed to accept a single contribution of$97,200 and distribute it evenly among the participating committees. On April 15, a group of GOP senators formed their own joint-fundraising committee that’s capable of reeling in a $98,800 check from a single donor.
This pushes up the price that donors are expected to pay for access to elected officials, says Lisa Rosenberg, a former staffer for then-Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.) and a lobbyist for the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more transparency in government.
“You’re going to get these members of Congress, elected officials, or would-be elected officials, soliciting these million-dollar checks,” says Rosenberg. “ ‘Oh come to my joint-fundraising committee on behalf of all these candidates.’ That’s going to be the invitation from John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi.”
Bonifaz agrees: “If you’re a donor who wants to maintain influence and access with those in leadership, you’re likely to give at that level. It means that we have increased even further the kind of disproportionate influence the very wealthy have over our politics.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Careful, Progressive Legal Analysis: Was it legal for Darren Wilson to shoot Michael Brown?


Was it legal for Darren Wilson to shoot Michael Brown?

453505316On August 15, six days after the death of Michael Brown, the Ferguson Police Department finally identified the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson.
The department also released documents about the circumstances of the shooting — suggesting that Brown was the primary suspect in a "strong-arm robbery" of a convenience store shortly before Wilson encountered him. However, in a later press conference that same day, the Ferguson Police Chief clarified that officer Wilson did not know about the robbery at the time of his initial contact with Brown. Rather, Wilson stopped the teenager for walking in the middle of the street.
We don't yet know if Wilson became aware of the robbery in the few minutes between when he stopped Brown and when he shot him. However, even if he did, the documents released on Friday don't automatically exonerate Wilson. Even if Wilson believed that Brown was a suspect in a robbery, it's still possible that the police officer could be charged with murder or another crime for shooting Brown. And even if Wilson isn't charged with a crime, it's still possible he could be fired.
All of those things depend on the outcome of a criminal investigation currently being conducted by the St. Louis County Police Department.
That investigation is supposed to collect all the facts about what happened: There's the story Wilson gave the St. Louis County police on the weekend of the shooting, which is that Brown initiated a violent confrontation and tried to grab his gun. There's the conflicting story told by eyewitnesses, which is that Brown was shot twice while facing the officer with his hands up. There's also forensic evidence that could show which of those stories is true.
Once all of that is taken into account, it's up to St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch to determine whether a crime was committed, and it's on the police department to determine whether the officer should be fired.
So what are the standards by which Wilson will be judged for killing Michael Brown? There are plenty of guidelines for use of force by police, but it often boils down to what the officer believed when the force was used — something that is notoriously difficult to quantify — regardless of how much of a threat actually existed. We talked to two experts to break down the fraught issue.

How do you determine if a police officer was justified in using deadly force?

When a police officer shoots and kills someone on the job, there's a two-track investigation. That's because there are actually two different sets of standards that govern when a police officer can use deadly force.
One set of standards is state law, informed by a couple of Supreme Court precedents that lay out the circumstances under which law enforcement officers are justified in using lethal force on suspects.
The other set of standards is the policy of the officer's police department, which tells its employees when it is and isn't appropriate for them to use force. If a police officer were to murder someone in cold blood while on the job, he wouldn't just be breaking the law — he'd be violating his equivalent of an employee handbook.
So when a cop uses deadly force in an officer-involved shooting, there's a standard criminal investigation: detectives collect evidence and present it to the local prosecutor. The prosecutor then determines whether the shooting fits the standards in state law for permissible homicide. If it doesn't, then a crime has been committed, and the prosecutor's job becomes figuring out which crime it was and whether there's enough evidence to charge the officer with it.
But there's also an internal investigation within the cop's department to evaluate whether the incident violated their use-of-force policy. Many departments' policies are stricter than state law — but an officer can't be charged with a crime just for violating the policy. He or she can, however, be fired for it.
In Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Department is conducting the criminal investigation. After collecting the facts, they'll then pass their report to the prosecutor, McCulloch, who'll decide whether a crime was committed.
David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor who studies use of force, said he assumes their report will also be the basis of the internal investigation within the Ferguson police department. After St. Louis County gives the Ferguson police the results of their investigation, Klinger says, "the Ferguson chief will either do it himself or convene a group to make a determination about whether the use of deadly force was consistent with Ferguson policy."
The FBI is also conducting an investigation into Brown's death and the events in Ferguson. But the FBI is evaluating whether or not the police violated civil-rights law — which is a different question from whether or not Wilson was justified in killing him.

In the 1980s, a pair of Supreme Court decisions set up a framework for determining when deadly force by cops is reasonable. Those decisions have governed how state laws are applied. Furthermore, many agencies simply use identical standards to the Supreme Court's for their own use-of-force policies — though some departments don't let officers use deadly force even when the Court decisions say they'd be allowed to.
Constitutionally, "police officers are allowed to shoot under two circumstances," says Klinger. The first circumstance is "to protect their life or the life of another innocent party" — what departments call the "defense-of-life" standard. The second circumstance is to prevent a suspect from escaping, but only if the officer has probable cause to think the suspect's committed a serious violent felony.
The logic behind the second circumstance, says Klinger, comes from a Supreme Court decision called Tennesseevs. Garner. That case involved a pair of police officers who shot a 15-year-old boy as he fled from a burglary. (He'd stolen $10 and a purse from a house.) The Court ruled that cops couldn't shoot every felon who tried to escape. But, as Klinger says, "they basically say that the job of a cop is to protect people from violence, and if you've got a violent person who's fleeing, you can shoot them to stop their flight."
Some police departments' policies only allow deadly force in the first circumstance: defense of life. Others have policies that also allow deadly force to prevent escape in certain cases, within the limits of the Supreme Court decision.

Does the convenience store robbery matter?

Shortly after releasing the documents that identified Brown as the primary suspect in a convenience-store robbery, the Ferguson Police Department clarified that Wilson had not known that Brown was a robbery suspect when he made "initial contact" with Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson. (Instead, the department says, Wilson stopped the teenagers because they were walking in the middle of the street.)
That phrasing doesn't make it clear whether or not Wilson believed Brown to be a robbery suspect when he started to shoot at him. If he did, it might then be up to the investigators and county prosecutor McCulloch to decide whether a "strong-arm robbery," as the Ferguson Police Department described the incident, counts as a violent felony. If they decide it does, that will go some way toward a legal justification for Wilson's action. On the other hand, Wilson would only be able to claim that he was justified if Brown was fleeing — which eyewitnesses say he wasn't.
It's most likely, however, that the whole question is moot. From the Ferguson Police Department's statements on the afternoon of August 15th, it doesn't sound like Wilson even knew about the robbery at all. In that case, there's no way for him to claim that he was justified in keeping a violent felon from fleeing, because he didn't even know Brown was a suspect in a crime at all.
Wilson could instead, however, claim "defense of life" — that he feared for his life when Brown (according to his story) assaulted him in his car. In that case, the next question will be whether it was reasonable for him to be afraid of Brown.

"Objectively reasonable"

The key to both of the legal standards -- defense-of-life and fleeing a violent felony -- is that it doesn't matter whether there is an actual threat when force is used. Instead, what matters is the officer's "objectively reasonable" belief that there is a threat.
That standard comes from the other Supreme Court case that guides use-of-force decisions: Graham v. Connor. This was a civil lawsuit brought by a man who'd survived his encounter with police officers, but who'd been treated roughly, had his face shoved into the hood of a car, and broken his foot — all while he was suffering a diabetic attack. The Court didn't rule on whether the officers' treatment of him had been justified, but it did say that the officers couldn't justify their conduct just based on whether their intentions were good. They had to demonstrate that their actions were "objectively reasonable," given the circumstances and compared to what other police officers might do.
There are plenty of cases in which an officer might be legally justified in using deadly force because he feels threatened, even though there's no threat actual threat there. Klinger gives the example of a suspect who has is carrying a realistic-looking toy gun. That example bears a resemblance to the shooting death of James Crawford, an Ohio man who was killed by police last week while carrying a toy rifle in Wal-Mart.
Hypothetically, if the gun looked real, Klinger says, "the officer's life was not in fact in jeopardy, but that would be an appropriate use of force. Because a reasonable officer could have believed that that was a real gun." In fact, toy gun manufacturers — including the maker of the air rifle Crawford had — have started using this standard to limit their liability, putting on a warning label that tells consumers police could mistake their products for real guns.
Walter Katz, a California attorney who specializes in oversight of law enforcement agencies — particularly during use-of-force investigations — points out that it's hard to determine whether an officer's fear is reasonable because the decision to shoot is so fast.
"Officer-involved shootings happen extremely quickly. Usually, the point from where the officer believes he has to use deadly force to the point where he uses deadly force — where he pulls the trigger — is about two seconds." That can make it much harder for investigators to decide whether or not the officer was reasonable in thinking he had to shoot. (The police records indicate that three minutes after Wilson encountered Brown, Brown was dead.)
That puts a lot of weight on an officer's immediate instincts in judging who's dangerous. And those immediate instincts are where implicit bias could creep in — believing that a young black man is a threat, for example, even if he is unarmed.
But each use of deadly force does have to be evaluated separately to determine if it was justified. "The moment that you no longer present a threat, I need to stop shooting," said Klinger. According to the St. Louis County Police Department's account, Wilson fired one shot from inside the police car. But Brown was killed some 25 feet away, after several shots had been fired. To justify the shooting, Wilson would need to demonstrate that he feared for his life not just when Brown was by the car, but even after he started shooting. The officer would need to establish that, right up until the last shot was fired, he felt Brown continued to pose a threat to him whether he actually was or not.
"There's a difference between the moment you cease to be a threat and the moment I perceive that you ceased to be a threat," says Klinger. And Katz points out that if an officer has been assaulted and the suspect runs away, the officer's threat assessment is probably going to be shaped by having just been assaulted. But, Katz says, "one can't just say, 'Because I could use deadly force ten seconds ago, that means I can use deadly force again now.'"

How to tell if an investigation is thorough and objective

When Katz evaluates an investigation of an officer-involved shooting, what he looks for "is really twofold. Number one, in the microscopic analysis: what happened? The more macroscopic question: how is the agency asking and answering the question of what happened? Is the investigation thorough, and is it objective?"
Katz and Klinger both run through a list of ways they'd expect investigators to gather evidence. Investigators should look for any video or still camera footage available: from a camera in the officer's car or nearby surveillance cameras.
They should also be using physical evidence to corroborate the accounts of witnesses. In cases where the eyewitness accounts contradict the officer's account, such as the Brown shooting, physical evidence can tell investigators who's telling the truth. If the victim has powder burns on his hands, for example, it means he was grabbing the officer's gun when it fired. If the bullet wounds show that the bullets hit a hard surface and bounced back into the body, that means the victim was almost certainly shot when he was on the ground.
The St. Louis County prosecutor's office announced on Tuesday that the results of the autopsy on Michael Brown's body would not be released to the public — meaning that the public won't know whether the forensic evidence validates eyewitnesses who say that Brown was killed while facing Wilson and holding his hands in the air. That's especially important if Wilson claims he shot Brown for fleeing a violent felony — the forensic evidence could establish whether Brown was still trying to flee as Wilson continued to shoot.
Even though physical evidence can prove eyewitness accounts wrong, interviewing civilian witnesses is important — and, Katz says, it's important that investigators do it "in a manner that seems the investigating agency is interested in the truth."  (Professionally, Katz would have access to recordings of interviews if he were evaluating a case; the public doesn't.)
When investigators don't have any physical evidence that tells them who's telling the truth, the trustworthiness of the witnesses becomes crucial. "If I've got Officer X and Officer X is a knucklehead, and the citizen who gives the statement has a pristine record," says Klinger, "the weight's probably going to be toward the witness. If the witness is a six-time loser who's on active parole for shooting three people and beating his wife, and the officer has a clean record," the officer will probably be seen as more credible. (Wilson is a six-year veteran of the Ferguson police with no record of misconduct.)
But both Klinger and Katz urge that it's not the job of the investigators to decide who's credible — much less to decide that someone's not credible enough to interview at all. Investigators are just supposed to present the facts and witness accounts to the prosecutor and the department, and let them make their own decisions.
So if a police department is neglecting to interview eyewitnesses, that's a reason for concern. Katz also says that the public should be looking at the public statements the police department conducting the investigation is making — whether they focus on the need to continue to interview witnesses and gather evidence, or "make it seem like they're adopting the officer's version of events."
When St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar gave a press conference on Sunday morning, he did say that his department would be investigating what happened after Brown left the officer's car. But he maintained that Brown had assaulted the officer (later identified as  Wilson) while in the car, and grabbed the officer's gun. In fact, the only reason the public knows Wilson's version of the story at all is because it was told to the press by the head of the department conducting the investigation. And Dorian Johnson, the young man who was with Michael Brown when he was killed, told MSNBC via his attorney Monday that the police haven't asked to speak to him. (On Wednesday, Johnson finally met with police.)
According to the advice laid out by Katz, both Belmar's public statements and the fact that an eyewitness wasn't interviewed until several days after the shooting are good reasons to be less confident that it's going to be an objective investigation.

The importance of public confidence

Is it ever possible for cops to be objective in evaluating something a fellow officer has done? Klinger says that it is. "Police officers who are reviewing their fellows know something the average person doesn't know, and that is what it's like to be on the street and be confronted with these difficult circumstances where you have to make split-second decisions. And in that regard, the officer might be getting a break because he is being judged literally by a jury of his peers." But he says it could easily go the other way: "those other officers are in good standing to call him on his BS and go 'This is not how any reasonable officer would have behaved.'"
Katz looks at the problem a different way. The key, he says, is whether the public has confidence that the investigation is being conducted objectively. "When it comes to officer-involved shootings, confidence is the only currency which that agency has — that the public has confidence that it is going to be an objective and fair and transparent investigation. Once that confidence is lost, people will not trust the outcomes."
In Ferguson, the public reaction to Brown's death makes it pretty clear that residents don't have a great amount of trust in the investigation. They definitely don't trust the St. Louis County police, who were the most visible agency shooting tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets at them in the days of protests after Brown was killed. In fact, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon believed the county police were escalating the situation so much thst he pulled them out of Ferguson and placed state troopers in charge of responding to protesters. But the county is still running the investigation.
In such a tense environment, how the investigation unfolds, and whether the St. Louis County Police Department can conduct it objectively, will be an important factor in whether peace in Ferguson can last. Residents will continue to be angry with police, even to the point of civil unrest, if they can't be confident that the cops are trying.
                              AND also from

11 Things You Should Know About the Michael Brown Shooting by German Lopez, August 15, 2014