The federal government on Wednesday called for a massive overhaul of the law enforcement practices of this St. Louis suburb in a scathing report that found the city regularly engaged in unconstitutional practices that had the heaviest impact on Ferguson’s black residents.Ugh, my brain hurts.
The long-anticipated report detailed systemic issues with the Ferguson Police Department and its municipal court, and provided accounts of individual incidents, many based on police reports authored by Ferguson officers. The report lends force to the complaints of protesters and some Ferguson residents, who have long said the city treated them as sources of revenue rather than citizens to be protected.
In a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, a Justice Department official expressed confidence that Ferguson could implement a lengthy list of necessary reforms. The official said the city cooperated with the DOJ investigation, and a meeting with Ferguson officials on Tuesday was not adversarial.
But the public reaction of Ferguson officials to the damning report left unclear what will happen next. Mayor James Knowles III made a brief statement before cameras on Wednesday night, announcing that one Ferguson employee who sent racist emails mentioned in the report had been fired, and two other employees who sent racist emails were on leave.
Yet Knowles, who appeared without police Chief Tom Jackson or other city officials, gave no indication that his government would continue to cooperate with federal civil rights officials. And the racist emails, though disturbing, were only a minor component of the lengthy federal report, which called into question the city’s entire approach to policing and the enforcement of its municipal code.
The report raises the question of whether the Ferguson will continue to operate its own police department or instead contract with another law enforcement agency. Ferguson is one of the smallest cities subjected to such a Justice Department probe, and the high cost of implementing reforms, along with an anticipated decrease in municipal court revenue from fines and fees, may force the city to consider disbanding its police force of just over 50 officers.
A damning report released by the Justice Department on Wednesday heavily criticized the operations of the police department and municipal court in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot and killed by a white police officer in August.
DOJ’s civil rights investigation into the Ferguson criminal justice system found that authorities have routinely violated the rights of black citizens and have used tickets to generate revenue for the city.
Many police officers “appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominately African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” in part due to city policies, according to the report.
The Justice Department also disclosed several emails sent by current Ferguson officials over the past several years that reveal racial bias. One email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee. Another email described a man who wanted to get welfare for his dogs because they were “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.” A third email included a photo depicting bare-chested dancing women with the caption “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion,” while another email included jokes about Muslims.
The report found that city, police and court officials have “worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process” for several years.
Question: What's your read on all this?