I started this blog with the intent to research if there were any community residents who had ever filed a class action suit against a city’s police department in order to encourage the police to reform their practices due to their history of mistreatment of peoples in the area.
I found my answer in the 12/7/14 NY Times article, “Police Face a Long and Complex Task to Mend Distrust Deepened by Killings” by Manny Fernandez. The author provides examples as to how other police departments had to overhaul their police practices after a major scandal. Some excerpts are as follows:
“Several police departments that have made changes after fatal shootings or excessive-force scandals, including those in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and New Orleans, provide models for Ferguson. Such changes have often been a result of public and political pressure, court orders, state intervention, and agreements, known as consent decrees, between the Justice Department and the police agencies.”
“In Cincinnati, the Rev. Damon Lynch III helped lead a push to overhaul the Police Department after the fatal shooting in 2001 of an unarmed 19-year-old black man, Timothy Thomas, by a white officer. The filing of a class-action lawsuit against the city led to a 2002 agreement among community leaders, the police and others.”
“The cops had to sit through a process that initially they hated, but at the end of the day, most people in Cincinnati, cops included, will tell you we’re better for it,” said Mr. Lynch, who has twice visited Ferguson to hand out copies of the agreement.”
“They (police) cannot continue to engage in a mind-set that they’ve done no wrong, that everything they’ve done has been by the book and it’s O.K. to continue down that path,” said Joseph Brann, the former director of the Justice Department’s community-oriented policing office and a former police chief in Hayward, Calif. “If they do that, there’s no hope for reform.”
The DOJ has been in the process of investigating the practices of the Ferguson police following the 8/9/14 fatal shooting of a Black unarmed, older teenager, Michael Brown by the White Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. This report should be forthcoming as the Attorney General Eric Holder has already proffered his resignation upon the confirmation of his replacement by Congress. As it turns out, there is a 3/1/15 NY Times article, “Justice Department Report to Fault Police in Ferguson” by Matt Apuzzo, who is reporting that the DOJ plans to release the results of their investigation into the Ferguson’s police department in the near future. The imminent report is expected to be highly critical. Here are some excerpts:
“According to several officials who have been briefed on the report’s conclusions, the report criticizes the city for disproportionately ticketing and arresting African-Africans and relying on the fines to balance the city’s budget. The report, which is expected to be released as early as this week, will force Ferguson officials to either negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department or face being sued by it on civil rights charges. Either way, the result is likely to be significant changes inside the Ferguson Police Department, which is at the center of a national debate over race and policing.”
“While the Justice Department’s exact findings are not yet known, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who is expected to leave office in the next few weeks, and other officials have said publicly that their investigation has focused on the use of excessive force and the treatment of prisoners in local jails as well as the traffic stops.”
“Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.”
“For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans.”
“Investigators do not need to prove that Ferguson’s policies are racially motivated or that the police intentionally singled out minorities. They need to show only that police tactics had a “disparate impact” on African-Americans and that this was avoidable. Nevertheless, the Justice Department’s report is expected to include a reference to a racist joke that was circulated by email among city officials, according to several law enforcement officials.”
“The Mayor John Knowles has said that the city hopes to increase diversity on its police force and is considering creating a board of citizens to help oversee it. He said the city is also considering creating a police youth program.”
“For Mr. Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, the Ferguson shooting was a signature moment. Mr. Holder has pledged that the Ferguson investigation — by far the most closely watched during his tenure — would be fair and independent. “I’m confident people will be satisfied with the results,” he said.
Personally, I am hoping that the DOJ report regarding their investigation into the Ferguson police department activities contain additional criticisms such as:
1.) The Police Chief Thomas Jackson’s 8/14/14 release of the convenient store video depicting Michael Brown shoplifting $15.00 worth of cigarillos during a press conference as well as the name of the officer involved in the shooting when this action was taken against the advice by the DOJ and which resulted in protests and destruction of property.
2.) The over militarization of the Ferguson police department which was witnessed on TV by the public who became outraged while observing the police acting like a combat unit in the middle east when dealing with law abiding protestors and media personnel while they were not hindering those criminally intent on mischief.
3.) The lack of training so that police officers were not familiar with the 1985 Supreme court ruling of Garner v Tennessee which restricts a police officer from pursuing an unarmed, fleeing suspect unless the officer or other lives are in harms way.4.) The police department standard practice of overlooking the habit of their officers not carrying Taser guns because they are too cumbersome as in the case of Officer Wilson on 8/9/14.
In short, I am expecting the DOJ report to be a thorough and detailed exposé of what led to the 8/9/14 tragedy and devastating aftermath.
UPDATE 3/4/15: Here is a link to the entire DOJ investigative report into the Ferguson PD practices:
Justice Department Finds a Pattern of Civil Rights Violations by the Ferguson Police Department.