Today, the Department of Justice announced their decision not to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown in August. The decision was not surprising—even if many see it as unjust—but the fact that it comes the same day as the DOJ's disturbing report on institutional racism within the Ferguson Police Department is a terrible irony. The DOJ's civil rights investigation demonstrates how the Missouri city's police force routinely violated the rights of its black residents. It also brings to light the fact that the police department has used tickets to fund the city budget, even when there was no public safety need.
The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery has been tweeting about some of the most damning points in the DOJ's report. Here are some of the ugliest stories DOJ investigators unearthed.
The report recounts instances of unnecessary force and violence against black people:
After telling the officer, “you don’t have a reason to lock me up,” he claims the officer responded: “N*****, I can find something to lock you up on.” When the man responded, “good luck with that,” the officer slammed his face into the wall, and after the man fell to the floor, the officer said, “don’t pass out motherf****r because I’m not carrying you to my car.”'
In all 14 uses of force involving a canine bite for which we have information about the race of the person bitten, the person was African American.
In January 2013, a patrol sergeant stopped an African-American man after he saw the man talk to an individual in a truck and then walk away. The sergeant detained the man, although he did not articulate any reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. When the man declined to answer questions or submit to a frisk—which the sergeant sought to execute despite articulating no reason to believe the man was armed—the sergeant grabbed the man by the belt, drew his ECW [Electronic Control Weapon], and ordered the man to comply. The man crossed his arms and objected that he had not done anything wrong. Video captured by the ECW’s built-in camera shows that the man made no aggressive movement toward the officer. The sergeant fired the ECW, applying a five-second cycle of electricity and causing the man to fall to the ground. The sergeant almost immediately applied the ECW again, which he later justified in his report by claiming that the man tried to stand up. The video makes clear, however, that the man never tried to stand—he only writhed in pain on the ground. The video also shows that the sergeant applied the ECW nearly continuously for 20 seconds, longer than represented in his report. The man was charged with Failure to Comply and Resisting Arrest, but no independent criminal violation.
It also covers instances of police officers detaining black citizens without cause:
An African-American man recounted to us an experience he had while sitting at a bus stop near Canfield Drive. According to the man, an FPD patrol car abruptly pulled up in front of him. The officer inside, a patrol lieutenant, rolled down his window and addressed the man: Lieutenant: Get over here. Bus Patron: Me? Lieutenant: Get the f*** over here. Yeah, you. Bus Patron: Why? What did I do? 18 Lieutenant: Give me your ID. Bus Patron: Why? Lieutenant: Stop being a smart ass and give me your ID. The lieutenant ran the man’s name for warrants. Finding none, he returned the ID and said, “get the hell out of my face.”
Summer of 2012, an officer detained a 32-year-old African-American man who 19 was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball. The officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, since his windows appeared more deeply tinted than permitted under Ferguson’s code. Without cause, the officer went on to accuse the man of being a pedophile, prohibit the man from using his cell phone, order the man out of his car for a pat-down despite having no reason to believe he was armed, and ask to search his car. When the man refused, citing his constitutional rights, the officer reportedly pointed a gun at his head, and arrested him. The officer charged the man with eight different counts, including making a false declaration for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”) and an address that, although legitimate, differed from the one on his license. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in possession. The man told us he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government as a result of the charges.
The report includes racist emails sent over the last few years by Ferguson officials:
A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
It shows how the police department has unjustly ticketed people in Ferguson to generate money for the city:
A 67-year-old woman told us she was stopped and arrested by a Ferguson police officer for an outstanding warrant for failure to pay a trash-removal citation. She did not know about the warrant until her arrest, and the court ultimately charged her $1,000 in fines, which she continues to pay off in $100 monthly increments despite being on a limited, fixed income.
To paraphrase attorney general Eric Holder's response to the findings: No wonder everyone was so damn pissed off.