DOJ Investigation Finds Pattern of Racist Policing in Ferguson

In what might be the least surprising news ever, a Department of Justice investigation into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri found a pattern of racist policing. At the same time, it clears Darren Wilson of any civil rights violations in connection with the shooting of Michael Brown.

Police officers in Ferguson, Mo., have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents, the Justice Department has concluded in a scathing report that accuses the officers of using excessive force and making unjustified traffic stops for years.

The Justice Department, which opened its investigation after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed a black teenager last summer, says the discrimination was fueled in part by racial stereotypes held by city officials. Investigators say the officials made racist jokes about blacks on their city email accounts…

Ferguson officials now face the choice of either negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department or potentially being sued by it on charges of violating the Constitution.

In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans — who make up about two-thirds of the city’s population — accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.

Black motorists were twice as likely as whites to be searched but were less likely to be found in possession of contraband such as drugs or guns.

You could issue an identical report on virtually every police department in the country. Study after study after study shows this exact same pattern, that blacks are far more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested than whites even though whites are more likely to be found breaking the law when they are stopped. This is almost certainly the result of implicit racism. Study after study also shows that white people almost inherently view black people as more threatening and more suspect in exhibiting normal human behavior, which is why black people are more likely to be stopped without any reasonable suspicion that they’re breaking the law. White people, on the other hand, are only likely to be stopped if there is good reason to suspect them of doing something wrong, so they’re more likely to be found to be actually breaking the law.

I’m glad this report is coming out, but no one should get the idea that this is a problem unique to Ferguson. We need serious reform of the criminal justice system because this problem is ubiquitous and systemic all over the country.

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  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Why wasn’t this pattern reported before?

    Three words:

    Dog bites man.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Of course, the DoJ doesn’t feel compelled to actually <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting/doj-says-officer-darren-wilson-cop-ferguson-case-wont-be-n317311. There is an election coming up and the Democrats can’t afford to alienate moderate, centrist bigots.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Damn! Let’s try that again

    DoJ doesn’t feel compelled to actually do anything about it. There is an election coming up and the Democrats can’t afford to alienate moderate, centrist bigots.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Gah! I can’t win.

  • Alverant

    It’s not so much they cleared him it’s that they can’t disprove the “I was afraid for my life” excuse that was used. How do you prove someone wasn’t feeling an emotion?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Black and whitewash.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    Ed: “We need serious reform of the criminal justice system”

    I am curious. What would you propose?

  • tbp1

    Least surprising headline all week.

  • Doubting Thomas

    How about desensitization training for cops. Teach them to lose the automatic fear response to black people. Hey shrinks do it all the time for fear of spiders.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    We need serious reform of the criminal justice system because this problem is ubiquitous and systemic all over the country.

    Obviously. With “two-thirds of the city’s population” having “88 percent of cases in which the police used force”, the liberal, politically correct, feminized Thin Blue Line is clearly going Soft on Crime.

    Plus I’m certain that a stronger Stop & Strip program in “urban” areas will be better at finding all those drugs the police currently are missing.

  • mithrandir

    It’s not so much they cleared him it’s that they can’t disprove the “I was afraid for my life” excuse that was used. How do you prove someone wasn’t feeling an emotion?

    This is one reason why body cameras for police are vital – they would help dispel doubt all round. If there were bodycam footage of Brown on his knees begging for his life, an indictment at some level would be assured and a conviction likely; and if there were bodycam footage of Brown charging, there wouldn’t have even been reason to bother with a grand jury circus.

    As it stands, there’s a huge gulf of lack-of-evidence on the incident where there’s enough reasonable doubt of Wilson’s guilt that criminal charges couldn’t reasonably stick, but enough reasonable doubt of his innocence that Ferguson residents could still be justifiably suspicious of the Ferguson police (even in the absence of all the other evidence the DoJ has found).

  • gshelley

    Study after study after study shows this exact same pattern, that blacks are far more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested than whites even though whites are more likely to be found breaking the law when they are stopped

    And unless I am misremembering, convicted and given a harsh sentence. From what I have seen (here and other places), at every level, the justice system in the US is racist.

  • Alverant

    @11 If that were to happen we’d be accused of “Monday morning quarterbacking” and hear whines of “You weren’t there, he was scared, it looked like Martin was going for a gun!” If the DA doesn’t want to prosecute then he’ll tank the incitement as what happened here. We already know cops will turn off dash-cams when making an arrest so there’s no reason to think they won’t try to do the same to body cams.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    We already know cops will turn off dash-cams when making an arrest so there’s no reason to think they won’t try to do the same to body cams

    The presumption should be that the cops are premeditating a crime, exactly as if I put something over the lens of a surveillance camera outside an ATM minutes before another customer “fell down” and “lost his wallet.”

  • fishnguy

    Listened to an interview with some of the residents of Ferguson, when asked about the findings one fellow said “Yeah, and water is wet. We’ve known this for years!”

  • Rick Pikul

    @theschwa

    I’d start with this:

    Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, it’s not perfect by any means but it’s better than what most places have.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Maybe we should encourage all young, African American, males to wear body cameras, if we can’t get the police to wear them. Hell, I guess everyone should wear them, to protect ourselves from the cops.

  • zmidponk

    @Gvlgeologist, FCD:

    One problem with that is that, if you do, you might find yourself being harassed and/or arrested by the police for recording them – even though that’s not a crime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=153100784 Michael Brew

    mithrandir @11

    And yet, somehow, when police were recorded assaulting a man for no reason who was clearly begging for his life, a grand jury still refused to indict the officers.

  • StevoR

    Well, ain’t that a surprise!

    (Does that really need a sarcasm tag?)

    ***

    “We might as well learn not to expect nothing from Southern justice. They’re going to stack the cards against us every time.” Sterling said.’ (Italics original.)

    – Page 60, >Black Like Me’, John Howard Griffin, Panther Books, 1960, 1961.