Black Caucus member: Ferguson turmoil could be 'turning point'

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Friday that the situation in Ferguson, Mo., "has the potential to be a turning point" when it comes to race relations and policing. 

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Cummings praised Thursday's "change in security tactics" and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's announcement that Highway Patrol would take over security from local law enforcement, saying both "greatly improved a horrible situation."

“As a nation we must also address the deeper problems that created this conflict," Cummings, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement.

"We need police forces that reflect the communities they serve, we need to address the stereotypes associated with young men of color, and we need to find ways to prevent unnecessary escalations in situations like these. This case has the potential to be a turning point, and we must learn from it," he added.

The Justice Department is currently investigating the shooting death of black teen Michael Brown, 18, by police in the St. Louis suburb.

On Thursday, several prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus called for Congress to launch its own investigation into Brown's death.

"Mr. Brown's killing highlights what appears to be a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African Americans in cities around the nation," Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) wrote, citing the choking death of a man by police in New York City last month and another unarmed man killed in Los Angeles this week.

"Although local these incidents have not resulted in the same degree of civil unrest seen in Ferguson, they raise similar concerns about how police officers interact with civilians in minority communities," the lawmakers said. 

Cummings made his statement Friday before Ferguson police identified the officer who shot the unarmed teen, and urged the Ferguson Police Department to conduct its investigation "in an open and transparent manner."