Review of Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department

Investigation of the Ferguson Police DepartmentInvestigation of the Ferguson Police Department by United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could simply quote the entire report for this review since it is so important to understanding the reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown and the entire Black Lives Matter movement. If you want to understand BLM and the attitude of many people of color toward the police, read this report.

Even if Mr. Brown’s death was entirely justified, this report is a thorough, systematic, and often understated assessment of why many in the community would never believe it. The FPD (probably along with many other police departments in the US) systematically mistreated and abused the residents they were supposed to protect.

Why did they do this? In a word: money. Both the police and the municipal court are responsible.

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.” (Sec. I)

In echos of the civil rights era, some have claimed that the unrest in Ferguson was the result of outsiders or paid protesters. The Justice Department found the opposite.

“Since the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, the lack of trust between the Ferguson Police Department and a significant portion of Ferguson’s residents, especially African Americans, has become undeniable. The causes of this distrust and division, however, have been the subject of debate. Police and other City officials, as well as some Ferguson residents, have insisted to us that the public outcry is attributable to ‘outside agitators’ who do not reflect the opinions of ‘real Ferguson residents.’ That view is at odds with the facts we have gathered during our investigation. Our investigation has shown that distrust of the Ferguson Police Department is longstanding and largely attributable to Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement.” (Sec. I)

This distrust existed long before the shooting, even if some were unaware of it.

“It appears that many police and City officials were unaware of this distrust and fear of Ferguson police among African Americans prior to August 2014. Ferguson’s Chief, for example, told us that prior to the Michael Brown shooting he thought community-police relations were good. During our investigation, however, City and police leadership, and many officers of all ranks, acknowledged a deep divide between police and some Ferguson residents, particularly black residents….A growing body of research, alongside decades of police experience, is consistent with what our investigation found in Ferguson: that when police and courts treat people unfairly, unlawfully, or disrespectfully, law enforcement loses legitimacy in the eyes of those who have experienced, or even observed, the unjust conduct.” (Sec. IV.D.1)

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