The Ferguson Report: Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department
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In the wake of these protests, the Department of Justice launched a six-month investigation, resulting in a report that Colorlines characterizes as "so caustic it reads like an Onion article" and laying bare what the Huffington Post calls "a totalizing police regime beyond any of Kafka's ghastliest nightmares." Among the report's findings are that the Ferguson Police Department "Engages in a Pattern of Unconstitutional Stops and Arrests in Violation of the Fourth Amendment," "Detain[s] People Without Reasonable Suspicion and Arrest[s] People Without Probable Cause," "Engages in a Pattern of First Amendment Violations," "Engages in a Pattern of Excessive Force," and "Erode[s] Community Trust, Especially Among Ferguson's African-American Residents."
Contextualized here in a substantial introduction by renowned legal scholar and former NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president Theodore M. Shaw, The Ferguson Report is a sad, sobering, and important document, providing a snapshot of American law enforcement at the start of the twenty-first century, with resonance far beyond one small town in Missouri.
officer) in an intersection after school. When one of the schoolgirls gave the middle finger to a white witness who had called the police, an officer ordered her over to him. One of the girl’s friends accompanied her. Though the friend had the right to be present and observe the situation—indeed, the offense reports include no facts suggesting a safety concern posed by her presence—the officers ordered her to leave and then attempted to arrest her when she refused. Officers used force to arrest
preliminary injunction against the use of a state eavesdropping statute to prevent the recording of public police activities); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 439 (9th Cir. 1995) (recognizing a First Amendment right to film police carrying out their public duties); Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000) (recognizing a First Amendment right “to photograph or videotape police conduct”). Indeed, as the ability to record police activity has become more widespread, the
policies. Officers across the country encounter drunkenness, passive defiance, and verbal challenges. But in Ferguson, officers have not been trained or incentivized to use de-escalation techniques to avoid or minimize force in these situations. Instead, they respond with impatience, frustration, and disproportionate force. FPD’s weak oversight of officer use of force, described in greater detail below, facilitates this abuse. Officers should be required to view the ECW as one tool among many,
meaningful connection with much of Ferguson’s African-American community is due to the fact that they are “transient” renters; that they do not appreciate how much the City of Ferguson does for them; that “pop-culture” portrays alienating themes; or because of “rumors” that the police and municipal court are unyielding because they are driven by raising revenue. Our investigation showed that the disconnect and distrust between much of Ferguson’s African-American community and FPD is caused
assessment. These disparities are also present in FPD’s use of force. Nearly 90% of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African Americans. In every canine bite incident for which racial information is available, the person bitten was African American. Municipal court practices likewise cause disproportionate harm to African Americans. African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by the court, and are more likely to have their cases last