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Michael Brown

U.S. DOJ finds widespread racial bias by Ferguson police force

WASHINGTON — Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in August because he feared for his life after Brown first tried to grab his gun and then came toward him in a threatening manner, according to a U.S. Justice Department report released Wednesday.

“Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses . . . there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat,” officials concluded in the 87-page report. The review explained why the Justice Department will not pursue civil rights charges against Wilson for the fatal shooting.

A second scathing 102-page report, also released Wednesday, highlighted widespread racial bias by the 72-member Ferguson police department and described a system of using law enforcement to extract money from African American residents, a practice Attorney General Eric Holder called “revenue generation through policing.”

The investigation found that Ferguson officers competed to see who could issue the largest number of citations during a single stop, and in one instance, that total rose to 14. Even minor code violations sometimes resulted in multiple arrests, jail time and payments that far exceeded the cost of the original ticket.

The Justice Department investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.

Washington Post graphic

“Seen in this context, amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,” Holder said Wednesday, in one of his last speeches before he steps down.

Justice officials personally met with Brown’s parents Wednesday morning to notify them of the department’s findings.

“Today we received disappointing news from the Department of Justice that the killer of our son wouldn’t be held accountable for his actions,” Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. said in a statement. “While we are saddened by this decision, we are encouraged that the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling they found in their handling of interactions with people of color.”

Justice Department officials said they would have had to prove that Wilson used unreasonable force against Brown and that he did so “willfully,” knowing that it was against the law to do so. Instead, after a seven-month review, investigators found that Wilson’s shooting of Brown did “not constitute a prosecutable violation.”

A grand jury in St. Louis had declined to indict Wilson in November.

Justice Department investigators came to their conclusion after canvassing more than 300 homes and reviewing physical, ballistic, forensic, medical and crime-scene evidence. They also examined Wilson’s personnel records, audio and video recordings and the transcripts from the proceedings before the St. Louis County grand jury.

“The promise I made when I went to Ferguson and at the time that we launched our investigation was not that we would arrive at a particular outcome, but rather that we would pursue the facts, wherever they led,” Holder said.

Holder said he understood why some would wonder how the department’s findings could differ so sharply from the initial accounts of what happened in Ferguson. But he said the discrepancy was due, in part, to a deeply rooted pattern of racial bias in the police department that had left the Ferguson community polarized.

“A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African-American residents,” Holder said.

Justice officials met with Ferguson city officials Tuesday, including the mayor and the police chief, to discuss their findings in what one Justice official called “a difficult conversation.” The Justice Department made 26 recommendations for the Ferguson police department and municipal court, including a “robust system of true community policing” and new hiring practices to recruit minority officers.

“It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said. “Let me be clear: The United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change.”

The majority of law enforcement agencies that have been investigated by the department’s civil rights division have entered into voluntary agreements to implement recommended changes. But if that doesn’t happen, the department can bring a lawsuit, as it has done against several cities.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, a Republican, said at a news conference Wednesday night that his police department is determined to address racial discrimination charges. “We must do better, not only as a city, but as a state and a country,” he said.

Justice officials also released seven racist emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials that they said indicated “intentional discrimination.”

A November 2008 email, for instance, stated that President Barack Obama could not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another email described Obama as a chimpanzee. An email from 2011 showed a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women apparently in Africa with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.” Another joked that a black woman would help stop crime because she got an abortion.

Justice officials did not specifically identify who wrote the emails and to whom they were sent but said they were written by police and court supervisors.

Knowles said that three police supervisors who were found to have sent racist emails will be fully investigated and that one has already been fired.

“Let me be clear, this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson police department or in any department in the city of Ferguson,” Knowles said. “These actions taken by these individuals are in no way representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson.”

In hundreds of interviews and in a wide-ranging review of more than 35,000 pages of police records and other documents, Justice Department officials found that although African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93 percent of all arrests between 2012 and 2014. The Ferguson police also overwhelmingly employed force against African-Americans, including the use of dogs in police actions.

As part of its findings, the Justice Department concluded that African-Americans accounted for 85 percent of all drivers stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90 percent of all citations issued.

In one case, a woman received two parking tickets that totaled $152. But she has paid $550 to date in fines and fees to the city . She has been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, spent six days in jail and still owes Ferguson $541.

In an example of what Holder called “routine” constitutional violations, a Ferguson officer arrested a 32-year-old African-American man who was sitting in his car resting after a basketball game. With no apparent justification, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, wouldn’t let him use his phone and ordered him out of his car for a pat-down. When the man objected, the officer drew his gun, pointed it at the man’s head and arrested him on eight different counts.

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Washington Post staff writers Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery contributed to this report.

(c) 2015, The Washington Post

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Bobpiazza

Let’s face it, racism is alive and growing in the US.
In 1958, while I was in the military stationed in Mississippi I experienced racism and segregation for the first time.
To this day, thinking of that still makes me sick.
At the time, and to this day, I thought if I were treated like that I would be the most rebellious person around.
People can cite all the statistics they want, but usually that ignores the core of the problem.
How would you feel if no hope existed for your advancement simply because of your skin color?
I encourage you to examine any political organization to which you might belong. Many times you will find it is funded by the Koch brothers.
The Koch brothers, in addition to dominating the political community are also dominating the education of our youth.
They contribute millions to hundredths of colleges in the US with the agreement that they teach their values.
The values are:
Power
Money
No government
Segregation
Power
Money

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Charles Bryson

Steve, your declaration of not being a racist coupled with your view that racism is far too often brought up speaks volumes about your mindset.. I noticed that that you fail to comment about the findings of the DOJ. Apparently you have no thoughts about the unlawful , illegal practices of of the police officers and the court personnel. Did you ignore the listed findings of the DOJ or was the print too small for you to read? What about the police officer that falsely accused a 32 year old man who was resting in his car after a ballgame of being a pedophile, pointed his gun at the man’s head and arrested him on 8 different counts? Instead you find fault with parenting of the kids. Criticizing Rev. Sharpton for ” throwing gas on a fire”. Seems to me that those “fires” always seem to have been ignited by questionable actions by not only alleged wrongdoers and those alleged sworn upholders of the law. Its a good thing Rev. King is no longer showing up at those “fires”. I feel certain that you’d be criticizing him were he still alive. Perhaps you did were you over the age of 10 during his lifetime.

You question how many incarcerated Blacks are actually innocent and shouldn’t be in prison? I’ve no idea but I do know that Blacks are more apt to being imprisoned than Whites. More have faced the death penalty Whites. There’s been enough studies and surveys reflecting that Blacks are punished just for because they are Black. Racism is Alive and Well in the USA. Thanks to non racists such as you Steve I sure that it will continue to prosper. Acting respectfully, listening to and obeying the commands, and not doing anything stupid doesn’t guarantee that the overzealous, John Wayne syndrome, abusive police officer is not going to do something stupid, Steve. That why many Black parents give their kids The Talk and then pray that the kids won’t ever be confronted by the police. I’m sure you haven’t had to give your the kids The Talk.

Sharpton and others aren’t reigniting the “race wars”, Steve. There are enough racists in the USA and the world that desire to keep racism alive. There are enough KKK’s and neo-Nazi skinheads, hate groups, and their sympathizers/ fellow-travelers to keep that volatile war going. I forgot to mention and few non-racists to voice their blind view. . Rodrigo, there are numerous non- Blacks that thrive on racial friction as the entire world is witnessing. Surely you are keeping up with the beheading and slaughtering happening other parts of the world. The USA has experienced the beheading and lynching of Blacks. Even within the 20th century. Just a few years ago a young Black man was roped to a truck and dragged a few miles by some racists. He was found decapitated hours later. They were found guilty. Fortunate for them they White and weren’t sentenced to death.

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John

When someone starts by saying “I am not a racist, but . . . .” you can be pretty sure they are a racist, and what follows will be racist comments.
The just-released DOJ report documents and concludes that not only “the kid in Ferguson” but thousands of other were victims of systemic racism.
It may be the same systemic racism that persuades so many to support it, promote it, excuse it.
How about we stop and frisk and harass and fine, for jaywalking or whatever else we can think of, the suits on Wall Street, all the while shouting to them to “stop resisting,” and see what the results of that would be?
I’m betting we would not be blaming their parents, their ministers, their leaders for whatever ‘crimes’ we imagine they’re committing daily, and we would not long be carrying out this procedure either.

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Rodrigo U

If High School teachers risk their lives trying to change the black youth’s worldview WITH LITTLE SUCCESS, and their own families are so fragmented and disfunctional, how are we to expect them to be law-abiding citizens. Make no mistake about it, many black leaders thrive on racial friction.

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Steve

While I agree that racism is a terrible thing. I a not a racists however I do think that the black youth of the United States is in for more turmoil if the parents of these kids don’t instill any values. While everyone throws the race card out nobody is looking at the other side. Ferguson is a small town but it’s crime rate nearly equals that of the entire state of Connecticut. I believe it comes from the glorification of Murder,Drugs and degradation of woman that is the main platform for almost every rap artist in which these kids idolize. You can’t tell me that this has nothing to do with this. While yes most prisons are filled with Black youth, how many of them are actually innocent. The kid in Ferguson as well as his parents were felons. Then you have the riot instigator Sharpton that always shows up to throw gas on the fire. There is a simple way to not get shot by the police. Listen to the commands, Answer respectfully and don’t do anything stupid. It’s pretty simple however these kids have no respect for authority figures and are out of control. The problem is not racism it’s poor parenting and poor role models. Stop re igniting the race wars and deal with the real problem people. Also nobody’s text msgs and emails. What people say or do in their private life is their own business. I am sure hate goes both ways too.

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Juggling For A Cure

Unfortunately, the Ferguson Police Department isn’t the only police department that disparages Black people. Montgomery County Sheriff (Dayton, Ohio) officers used text messages to express their disdain for African Americans.

“I hate n***. That is all: 5 Ohio deputies probed for years of racist text messages.” ABC 22 News. http://youtu.be/ZwjtjTbZsMU.

The Justice Department should examine the emails and text messages of other police departments to find out how systemic the problem is.

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