No Justice for Ferguson
Eric Holder's report might reveal real problems but it doesn't solve a thing.
As expected, the Justice Department released its report on endemic racism in the Ferguson Police Department, determining that blacks were treated unfairly in “nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system.” The DOJ’s findings were virtually a foregone conclusion. Attorney General Eric Holder and his merry band set out to find racism among white cops and, lo and behold, their witch hunt was successful. But, if some of the findings are indeed true, it’s hard to say there isn’t a real problem in Ferguson.
For purely partisan reasons, Holder and his boss, Barack Obama, launched a national campaign to throw municipal, county and state law enforcement officers under the bus – the same cops they frequently use as photo-op props.
Holder said the DOJ’s findings explain why a black man’s death at the hands of a white police officer “set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.” Perhaps that’s partly true, especially if the perception among the populace is that the police are out to get them, but it’s also far more complicated than Holder lets on. And can we really believe anything he says?
Right up front, it’s important to reiterate that the vast majority of law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal level abide, first and foremost, by their oaths “to Support and Defend” our Constitution and the Liberty it enshrines.
But that doesn’t mean a few haven’t forgotten who they are obligated to “protect and serve.” We’ve warned previously about the over-militarization of police. It’s a problem for several reasons, and one is the tendency to amplify aggression when encountering citizens and suspects. As we said in August, a situation that was already tense thanks to the racial imbalance between the city and its police department, was made worse by the paramilitary police response to the riots after Michael Brown’s death.
Furthermore, as Mark Alexander, a police veteran himself, wrote in December, “Clearly, there are some police officers calloused by constant exposure to oppressive urban criminal cultures. Consequently, some may over-generalize racial assumptions and abuse their authority.”
But the problem in Ferguson isn’t quite, well, black and white.
According to the DOJ, “African Americans experience disparate impact in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system. Despite making up 67% of the population, African Americans accounted for 85% of FPD’s traffic stops, 90% of FPD’s citations, and 93% of FPD’s arrests from 2012 to 2014.”
“Disparate impact” is one of Obama’s favorite phrases, but does this mean police are racist? Not necessarily. As Alexander noted, “[W]hen 90% of murders in urban centers are ‘people of color’ and 90% of perpetrators are ‘people of color,’ cops of any color are going to be more cautious with ‘people of color.’ This is not ‘racism,’ this is reality, driven by a desire to make it home safely at the end of one’s shift.”
Still, the DOJ’s accounts of police overstepping bounds are too numerous to ignore. Just to name a couple:
A black man who was sitting in his car cooling off from playing basketball was accused by an officer of being a pedophile because there were children nearby. He was ordered out of his car for a pat-down, seemingly without cause, and then arrested for “eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code,” including not wearing a seatbelt in a parked car. The man lost his job as a result.
A black woman illegally parked her car and ended up in a six-year battle, paying more than $1,000 in fines and spending six days in jail.
Were there extenuating circumstances in these cases? Prior arrests? Perhaps, but the report is careful not to elaborate on the citizens’ backgrounds.
There are plenty of other anecdotes of general harassment – police seeming to escalate otherwise innocuous situations, police dogs biting blacks (and only blacks), officers arresting people based solely on verbal exchanges, and cops uttering racial epithets. We’re sure none of Ferguson’s black citizens ever hurled racial epithets at officers.
The report found that “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” The city’s finance director emailed the police chief to see if the police department could raise enough revenue for a 10% budget increase. For a town of 21,000 with a median income around $36,000, that’s not hard to believe. In fact, one might ask why Ferguson has a police department of its own, rather than deploying the St. Louis County PD.
The problems in Ferguson did not, however, extend to Officer Darren Wilson’s deadly encounter with Michael Brown. He was cleared of criminal charges in November, and the DOJ went to great lengths explaining why Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. While that defense is all well and good, Obama, Holder and their race-baiting friends ended Wilson’s career in the police department and effectively endangered him for life by countenancing (until now) the false “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme.
It wasn’t long before two New York police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, lost their lives at the hands of a black racist.
Don’t miss the timing of the two reports. The one absolving Wilson was released alongside the political consolation prize – discrediting the entire department.
Also note the administration’s language defending the ATF’s looming ammunition ban is all about “protecting police.” See? Obama cares.
The trouble here is that the Justice Department’s report doesn’t resolve anything. Those who see police as racist, jackbooted thugs now have a lengthy report full of horrible anecdotes to back that up. Others who see the Obama administration as the racist, jackbooted thugs will summarily dismiss the report. Based on Obama’s and Holder’s untrustworthiness, this is understandable.
The truth is probably lost somewhere in the middle. Racial tension is real – there’s no doubt Ferguson residents at least felt harassed rather than served. Police are human and susceptible to abusing power. But inner city culture is rotten and full of law-breaking gangbangers of whatever race. The DOJ report calls for changes in Ferguson, but none of those changes are solutions. So, now what?