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Ferguson Fiasco

Here is the link to the United States Department of Justice’s Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department report written in its entirety

Fox News Radio Host John Gibson wrote an article on March 5, 2015 called “‘HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT’ WAS A LIE–FERGUSON MUNICIPAL COURT TAKES THE FALL.” In the article he takes the position that the United States Department of Justice’s Investigative Report on the Ferguson Police Department is Eric Holder settling for revenge on the institution because he couldn’t get revenge on the man he really wanted to: Darren Wilson. Those are his words, not mine.

Here is a link to his article

Gibson writes, “Attorney General Eric Holder was very angry at Ferguson, Missouri, erupting in a near-the-end-of-his-tenure tirade: Ferguson, he said was a ‘community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents…where this harm frequently appears to stem…from racial bias…'”

Let’s first start off with the words “angry” and “tirade.” When I watched his press conference, I did not see any anger on Holder’s face or hear any anger in his voice. And I certainly would not describe what he said as a tirade. He stated the findings and conclusions of the report. These words have angry black man stereotype written all over them. Gibson is either race-baiting, had a skewed view of Holder’s emotions due to subconscious prejudices, or watched a different press conference than I did. And to say that he was angry “at Ferguson” is also an incorrect statement. Why would he be angry at the entire city? To say he is angry at Ferguson implies that he is not only angry at Ferguson’s institutions but also at all of its citizens and residents.

Gibson would go on to write, “The Attorney General sent squads of investigators over to Ferguson to turn over every racist rock, and the more they investigated, the angrier he became…he ultimately found that he couldn’t achieve his main goal, an indictment of police officer Darren Wilson, but he could take out a secondary target…the Ferguson Police Department itself, and he came to the conclusion that he could also blame and punish the municipal court system across the entire state of Missouri.”

Once again we have this idea of anger. But Gibson introduces another idea: a witch hunt. I read through most of the Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) and it certainly is not much of a hunt when there is evidence all over the place of a conspiracy (more on that is coming up).

But Gibson keeps pumping out nonsense: “Holder would have loved to prosecute Wilson, but his investigators found that [Michael] Brown did go after officer Wilson’s gun, and did charge the officer only a few seconds later, and both those actions led to Brown’s death…all those fabulists who told investigators that Brown was an innocent young man who was hunted down and executed by a racist white cop while trying to surrender were willfully and maliciously lying. But the official Department of Justice report does not indicate such perjurious testimony to federal investigators that will lead to charges against those who purposely distorted the truth.”

This idea that these droves of people were maliciously lying is ridiculous. It has been shown time and time again through studies that eyewitnesses can recall events very differently in their respective memories. The part that is unclear is whether Brown was charging or stumbling and falling trying to put his hands up when Wilson fired the fatal shots. Many different forensic pathologists have come out with many different opinions on the issue. We will probably never know what happened in those final seconds. Third, the reason that so many people believe that a police officer would do such a thing as execute a black teenager is because of the distrust of Ferguson police, especially among Ferguson’s black residents, which is made understandable by the findings in the DOJ report (which I will get to in a minute). This idea of perjury is ridiculous.

Gibson then goes on to say, “In other words, the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ mantra was a lie meant to railroad an innocent police officer, but the liars got a pass from the Attorney General.” This is just flat out insane. There is no way that this mantra would have started unless people genuinely believed that he was guilty. And the bigger picture of the “hands up, don’t shoot” movement is that it speaks to the issue of racial disparity between police and black people as a whole around this nation. Need I mention names of people who were for sure unjustifiably killed (Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tanesha Anderson, etc.)?

Gibson’s diarrhea of the mouth continues: “But the Department of Justice investigation did reward the Attorney General with a jackpot prize. His investigators discovered that…city administrators in Ferguson pressured police officers to write tickets in order to pad the coffers of the city, and…since black people break motor vehicle laws of various sorts on a regular basis, Ferguson police were writing many many tickets to black drivers. The first point must have been a stunner to the idealist innocents stationed in the D.C. headquarters of the Department of Justice. ‘Wait….police departments write tickets in order to generate revenue for the city government? Whoa!’ Yes, this naivete is happening. The naifs at the DOJ were shocked to discover traffic tickets were a source of revenue for the City of Ferguson, and even more shocked to discover the city administration was keeping tabs on the police chief to make sure his officers wrote more and more tickets…I should interject I am against any city pressuring cops to write tickets under quotas in order to exact a stealth tax out of its citizens…But please don’t tell me this is news.”

There’s so much to rip apart here. First of all, I doubt that anyone in the Department of Justice, especially the Attorney General, sees injustice as a “prize.” The second is the notion that black people “break motor vehicle laws…on a regular basis.” Is Gibson talking about black people in Ferguson or all black people? If he’s talking about all black people that’s extremely racist, and even if he’s just talking about black people in Ferguson he is wrong. And the Justice Department is not shocked at the fact that Ferguson generates revenue by writing tickets, but at the unbelievable extent to which it does so and how this revenue is made disproportionately off of poor black Ferguson residents.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things black people in Ferguson get ticketed or cited for according to the DOJ report.

In the summer of 2012 a black man was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a public park. Children also happened to be present at this public park. A police officer thought this was suspicious and that he might be a predator. The officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. The officer then accused him of being a pedophile without any legitimate evidence and ordered the man out of the car for a patdown even though there was no reason to suspect that he had a weapon. When the officer asked to search the man’s car, the man objected and cited his constitutional rights. So the officer arrested the man at gunpoint. The man was charged with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. Some of these included Making a False Declaration because when the officer asked for his name he gave his nickname (for example, Mike instead of Michael) and having an address that was different from the one on his driver’s license even though his address was legitimate and for not wearing a seatbelt even though he was in a parked car. Because of the arrest, the man lost his job with the federal government that he had held for a number of years.

Here’s another example. In October 2012, police pulled over a black man claiming his passenger side brake light was broken. The driver had recently replaced the light and knew it was working. But one officer said to him, “Let’s see how many tickets you’re going to get,” while another officer tapped his taser on the top of the man’s car. The officers wrote him a citation for “tail light/reflector/license plate light out” and refused to let the man get out of his car to show them that it was working, saying to him, “Don’t you get out of that car until you get to your house.” He was so upset that he went to the police station that night to show a sergeant that his lights worked.

In February 2012 an officer wrote a Disturbing the Peace ticket for loud music coming from a car even though no one had complained about the music.

Here are some statistics about the disparity between black people, other citizens, and the police in Ferguson provided by the DOJ report.

Black people account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests in Ferguson. Ferguson’s population is 67% black. That means that there is an 18% disparity between blacks and other residents in vehicle stops, a 23% disparity between blacks and other residents in citations, and a 26% disparity between blacks and other residents in arrests. Unless we assume that there is something in the nature or genes of black people that makes them more likely to break the law (which would be racist and wrong), the only explanation for disparities this great can be institutional racism.

Black residents of Ferguson are more than twice as likely as white residents to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated but are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers.

From 2012 to 2014, FPD issued four or more citations to black residents 73 times. Ferguson police did this to non-black people only twice according to the DOJ.

From 2011-2013, 95% of Manner of Walking in Roadway charges and 94% of all Failure to Comply charges were charged to blacks in Ferguson according to the DOJ.

When it comes to speeding charges, the number of black people in Ferguson that are cited by using a method other than radar or laser is 48% larger than other people charged on the basis of radar or laser.

Gibson notes that ticketing practices similar to the ones in Ferguson for traffic violations happen in New York City. No one is saying they aren’t or that Ferguson is the only place guilty of these things. If anything, I would say that Holder and the DOJ are using Ferguson as an example to show people that things like this happen and is using it as a microcosm for what is true about many municipalities in our country.

Gibson also would go on to say, “But the Attorney General also felt sulfurous and wrathful at the Municipal Court in Ferguson. He found it was also complicit in the revenue scheme that starts with a traffic fine, which graduates to late fees, which then graduates to a bench warrant, which results in an arrest, and jail time, and finally a payment plan that keeps (black) traffic violators in near perpetual indebtedness to the court…There is…punishment for the municipal court itself and new rules imposed on the court. According to the DOJ demands, the municipal court in Ferguson must ‘undertake a review of current fine amounts and ensure that…(they)…are not overly punitive, and take into account the income of Ferguson residents.’ (Emphasis added.) In other words, don’t fine traffic violators more than they say they can pay. And in assessing that individual’s ability to pay, the court should ‘include not only a consideration of the financial resources of an individual, but also consideration of any documented fines owed to other municipal courts.’ (Emphasis mine.) So the violator gets a break (not further punishment) the more violations he or she has committed…This means that in Ferguson…a black driver does not have to concern himself with traffic violations. If he were to get a ticket, he can ignore it. The court will find it nearly impossible to force the payment of a fine.”

Here again we have the stereotype of the angry black man being “sulfurous and wrathful.” It appears Gibson also felt the need to once again emphasize the fact that black people supposedly commit more traffic violations by putting black in parentheses before “traffic violators.” Perhaps Gibson does have an argument about not being lenient about people’s responsibility to pay for traffic violations and court fees just because of their ability to pay. Or he would if so many of the citations weren’t legally invalid in the first place. Think about it. Someone gets illegally cited or ticketed, has to go to court, can’t pay the court fee, has a late payment fee slapped on them, then next time they have to appear in court gets to court late because they don’t have a reliable method of transportation, so they get a penalty for showing up late, they can only partially the court plus late fee, so they have another fee slapped on them, have to go to jail, and so on and so forth, and they get trapped in an endless cycle of payments and late fees and arrests and jailtime that they can’t get out of all because of a citation that they got for committing no crime whatsoever. With the statistics and findings in the DOJ report, I can’t even imagine how many people this happened to. Also, just to illustrate the disparity when it comes to having court cases dismissed in Ferguson, according to the DOJ black people are 68% less likely to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge. In 2013 black people made up 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued according to the DOJ, which is 25% more than the percentage of the population they make up (67%). Black people also accounted for 96% of known arrests made exclusively due to an outstanding municipal warrant, a 29% disparity between the percentage of the population of Ferguson they make up (67%). Then Gibson insinuates that due to the changes that the DOJ is demanding, black drivers will have it easy, as if black people will ever have it easy, especially in a racist city like Ferguson.

Let’s face it: the city of Ferguson as an institution is not just unintentionally institutionally racist; it’s actively institutionally racist. The institution that is the city of Ferguson actively picks on black people. And that is something that I did not expect the Department of Justice to find. I was not surprised by the fact that Ferguson is institutionally racist, but the fact that it actively preys on its black residents.

EVERYONE was in on it. The court officials and the cops and the city officials of all ranks were all working together to carry out this scheme. Racism was not only present among these individuals, but rampant. Don’t believe me?

Here’s some examples of and excerpts from emails proving the extent of the conspiracy quoted in the DOJ report.

“Unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. . . . Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.”

“Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10% increase. He indicated they could try.”

According to the DOJ, “in June 2010, at the request of the City, the Chief prepared a report comparing court revenues in Ferguson to court revenues for cities of similar sizes. The Chief’s email sending the report to the City Manager notes that, ‘of the 80 St. Louis County Municipal Courts reporting revenue, only 8, including Ferguson, have collections greater than one million dollars.’”

According to the DOJ, “in March 2011, the Chief reported to the City Manager that court revenue in February was $179,862.50, and that the total ‘beat our next biggest month in the last four years by over $17,000,’ to which the City Manager responded: ‘Wonderful!’”

According to the DOJ, “in a January 2013 email from Chief Jackson to the City Manager, the Chief reported: ‘Municipal Court gross revenue for calendar year 2012 passed the $2,000,000 mark for the first time in history, reaching $2,066,050 (not including red light photo enforcement).’ The City Manager responded: ‘Awesome! Thanks!’”

According to the DOJ, “In one March 2012 email…The Captain noted that ‘[t]he [court clerk] girls have been swamped all day with a line of people paying off fines today. Since 9:30 this morning there hasn’t been less than 5 people waiting in line and for the last three hours 10 to 15 people at all times.’ The City Manager enthusiastically reported the Captain’s email to the City Council and congratulated both police department and court staff on their ‘great work.’”

Here is some more evidence found by the DOJ of a money-making conspiracy from excerpts of the DOJ report.

“The City’s emphasis on revenue generation has a profound effect on FPD’s approach to law enforcement. Patrol assignments and schedules are geared toward aggressive enforcement of Ferguson’s municipal code, with insufficient thought given to whether enforcement strategies promote public safety or unnecessarily undermine community trust and cooperation. Officer evaluations and promotions depend to an inordinate degree on ‘productivity,’ meaning the number of citations issued.”

“The court imposes these severe penalties for missed appearances and payments even as several of the court’s practices create unnecessary barriers to resolving a municipal violation. The court often fails to provide clear and accurate information regarding a person’s charges or court obligations…the court’s fine assessment procedures do not adequately provide for a defendant to seek a fine reduction on account of financial incapacity or to seek alternatives to payment such as community service. City and court officials have adhered to these court practices despite acknowledging their needlessly harmful consequences. In August 2013, for example, one City Councilmember wrote to the City Manager, the Mayor, and other City officials lamenting the lack of a community service option and noted the benefits of such a program, including that it would ‘keep…people that simply don’t have the money to pay their fines from constantly being arrested and going to jail, only to be released and do it all over again…these court practices exacerbate the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices. They impose a particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty. Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.”

“Of the $11.07 million in general fund revenue the City collected in fiscal year 2010, $1.38 million came from fines and fees collected by the court; similarly, in fiscal year 2011, the City’s general fund revenue of $11.44 million included $1.41 million from fines and fees. In its budget for fiscal year 2012, however, the City predicted that revenue from municipal fines and fees would increase over 30% from the previous year’s amount to $1.92 million; the court exceeded that target, collecting $2.11 million. In its budget for fiscal year 2013, the City budgeted for fines and fees to yield $2.11 million; the court exceeded that target as well, collecting $2.46 million. For 2014, the City budgeted for the municipal court to generate $2.63 million in revenue. The City has not yet made public the actual revenue collected that year, although budget documents forecasted lower revenue than was budgeted. Nonetheless, for fiscal year 2015, the City’s budget anticipates fine and fee revenues to account for $3.09 million of a projected $13.26 million in general fund revenues.”

“In a February 2011 report requested by the City Council at a Financial Planning Session and drafted by Ferguson’s Finance Director with contributions from Chief Jackson, the Finance Director reported on ‘efforts to increase efficiencies and maximize collection’ by the municipal court. The report included an extensive comparison of Ferguson’s fines to those of surrounding municipalities and noted with approval that Ferguson’s fines are ‘at or near the top of the list.’ The chart noted, for example, that while other municipalities’ parking fines generally range from $5 to $100, Ferguson’s is $102. The chart noted also that the charge for “Weeds/Tall Grass” was as little as $5 in one city but, in Ferguson, it ranged from $77 to $102. The report stated that the acting prosecutor had reviewed the City’s ‘high volume offenses’ and ‘started recommending higher fines on these cases, and recommending probation only infrequently.’ While the report stated that this recommendation was because of a ‘large volume of non-compliance,’ the recommendation was in fact emphasized as one of several ways that the code enforcement system had been honed to produce more revenue.”

“Not all officers within FPD agree with [the revenue generation] approach. Several officers commented on the futility of imposing mounting penalties on people who will never be able to afford them. One member of FPD’s command staff quoted an old adage, asking: ‘How can you get blood from a turnip?’ Another questioned why FPD did not allow residents to use their limited resources to fix equipment violations, such as broken headlights, rather than paying that money to the City, as fixing the equipment violation would more directly benefit public safety.”

“However, enough officers—at all ranks—have internalized this message that a culture of reflexive enforcement action, unconcerned with whether the police action actually promotes public safety, and unconcerned with the impact the decision has on individual lives or community trust as a whole, has taken hold within FPD. One commander told us…that when he admonished an officer for writing too many tickets, the officer challenged the commander, asking if the commander was telling him not to do his job. When another commander tried to discipline an officer for over-ticketing, he got the same response from the Chief of Police: ‘No discipline for doing your job.’”

If you don’t believe me that racism is not just present but rampant among Ferguson’s police, city officials, and court officials, here are some emails and excerpts of emails provided or described by the DOJ report.

“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.’”

According to the DOJ, “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!’”

According to the DOJ, “An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.”

According to the DOJ, “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.’”

According to the DOJ, “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.’”

According to the DOJ, “An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, ‘Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.’”

According to the DOJ, “A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.”

According to the DOJ, “Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias…Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.”

And if you still don’t believe me that there’s rampant racism throughout the police department here are some examples and statistics of use of force on black people as well as other actions committed by Ferguson police provided by the DOJ.

In July 2014 a group of FPD officers shouted racial epithets at a group of a young black man and his friends as they were walking.

Eighty-eight percent of cases in which FPD used force were against black people in Ferguson. That’s a 21% disparity from the 67% black racial makeup of Ferguson’s population.

In every incident where a Ferguson police dog bit someone, the person was black. Gee, does that bring back memories America?

In August 2014, a black man who was having an argument in his apartment that FPD officers responded to was immediately pulled out of the apartment by force. When he told the officer, “You don’t have a reason to lock me up,” the officer responded, “Nigger, I can find something to lock you up on.” The man responded, “Good luck with that,” and the officer slammed his face into the wall. The man fell to the floor and the officer said, “Don’t pass out motherfucker because I’m not carrying you to my car.”

According to the DOJ, “In a January 2014 incident, officers attempted to arrest a young African-American man for trespassing on his girlfriend’s grandparents’ property, even though the man had been invited into the home by the girlfriend. According to officers, he resisted arrest, requiring several officers to subdue him. Seven officers repeatedly struck and used their ECWs against the subject, who was 5’8” and 170 pounds. The young man suffered head lacerations with significant bleeding.”

According to the DOJ, “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, and ordered the man to comply. The man…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 sergeant fired the ECW…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…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.”

In cases where it is apparent that a person might have a mental health issue or may be on drugs, Ferguson officers either don’t seem to give a shit about their training to deal with them with more care and understanding or don’t seem to have had any training in this area. According to the DOJ, “In August 2010, an officer responded to a call about an African-American man walking onto the highway and lying down on the pavement. Seeing that the man was sweating, acting jittery, and had dilated pupils, the officer believed he was on drugs. The man was cooperative at first but balked, pushing the officer back when the officer tried to handcuff him for safety reasons. The officer struck the man several times with his Asp® baton—including once in the head, a form of deadly force—causing significant bleeding. Two other officers then deployed their ECWs against the man a total of five times.”

According to the DOJ, “FPD officers respond to misbehavior common among students with arrest and force, rather than reserving arrest for cases involving safety threats. As one SRO told us, the arrests he made during the 2013-14 school year overwhelmingly involved minor offenses—Disorderly Conduct, Peace Disturbance, and Failure to Comply with instructions. In one case, an SRO decided to arrest a 14-year-old African-American student at the Ferguson Middle School for Failure to Comply when the student refused to leave the classroom after getting into a trivial argument with another student. The situation escalated, resulting in the student being drive-stunned with an ECW in the classroom and the school seeking a 180-day suspension for the student. SROs’ propensity for arresting students demonstrates a lack of understanding of the negative consequences associated with such arrests. In fact, SROs told us that they viewed increased arrests in the schools as a positive result of their work. This perspective suggests a failure of training (including training in mental health, counseling, and the development of the teenage brain); a lack of priority given to de-escalation and conflict resolution; and insufficient appreciation for the negative educational and long-term outcomes that can result from treating disciplinary concerns as crimes and using force on students.”

If you still don’t believe me, there’s something wrong with you.

One more statistic. Ferguson’s police department is made up of 50 white officers and 3 black officers. I will remind you once again that Ferguson’s population is 67% black. I wonder if this is on purpose.

There is only one conclusion we can come to with this information: the city/town of Ferguson, as an institution, hates black people and loves to prey on them and see them suffer. They think it’s funny. And they know it’s profitable. And they have intentionally set up their institutions and departments so white people will be at the top and have all the power. What is institutional racism? Institutional racism=prejudice+power. But this is worse. Ferguson is actively institutionally racist. It wants to whip black people while they’re down. And I guarantee you that it’s not the only town in our country like this. Granted, I think this is rare for a town to be actively and intentionally institutionally racist to this extent. But trust me; Ferguson is probably not the only one. However, unintentional institutional racism is rampant throughout our society. And people are totally blind to it. More than half of the “millennial” generation believe that racism against white people is as bad or worse than that against other races today. The light at the end of the tunnel for this new information about Ferguson is that perhaps it will open people’s eyes to the fact that racism still exists. And perhaps in some ways this kind of racism is more dangerous than the kind that used to be more prevalent back in the days of Jim Crow because it is undercover and operating behind the scenes and under the surface. It’s right under our noses and we may not even realize it. And why? Because we don’t talk about it anymore. We like to pretend it’s dead. But it will never go away. All we can hope to do is keep it in check by being aware of our own subconscious prejudices and racism and fighting them. So the question I must ask Mr. Gibson is, how much of the report did you really read? Did we even read the same report?


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