Riot police stand guard as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting last weekend of an unarmed black teenager Brown, 18, by a police officer on Saturday after what police said was a struggle with a gun in a police car. A witness in the case told local media that Brown had raised his arms to police to show that he was unarmed before being killed. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Ferguson Police Department (Missouri)
2009 Henry Davis incident
In September 2009, officers mistakenly arrested Henry Davis based on an outstanding warrant for another man with the same name. While in custody, Davis was beaten by four officers. Davis was charged with “property damage” for bleeding on the officers’ uniforms. Davis was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Davis later pled guilty to two reduced charges and filed a lawsuit against the officers and the department. The lawsuit was dismissed.
Between July 2009 and December 2010, the department hired a police officer who had previously been fired from the Saint Louis Police Department after being accused of assaulting two minors, one a 12-year-old girl, with his service weapon. The officer was acquitted of the charges in 2010. A state commission found the man had committed “a criminal act”.
2011 death of Jason Moore
In September 2011, a Ferguson police officer used a TASER device on Jason Moore, a man who had a mental illness. After Moore ran down the street yelling and pounding on cars, the officer used the TASER device on him. When Moore tried to get up from the ground, the officer used the TASER twice more and Moore then stopped breathing. He died of a heart attack. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department for the death of Mr. Moore.
2014 shooting of Michael Brown and unrest
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, who was not armed, however had just attacked a local store owner and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, was fatally shot by Officer Wilson while on duty.
Peaceful protests and civil disorder broke out the day following Brown’s shooting and lasted for several days. As the details of the original shooting event emerged from investigators, police grappled with establishing curfews and maintaining order, inciting further unrest amongst the Ferguson community. Members of the Ferguson community demonstrated in various ways in the vicinity of the original shooting. The protests began the day after the shooting. On August 10, a day of memorials began peacefully, but some crowd members became unruly after an evening candlelight vigil. Local police stations assembled approximately 150 militarized officers in riot gear.
Chief of Police Tom Jackson drew criticism for his department’s release of information about Brown’s death, which was described by the Associated Press as “infrequent” and “erratic”, as well as for the aggressive response of his police department to the unrest at Ferguson in the days immediately after the shooting.
Jackson said that his top priority in Ferguson was race relations and committed to reach across the racial, economic, and generational divides in the community to find solutions, and said he welcomes the Justice Departmenttraining on racial relations between police and the residents, in which two-thirds of the residents are black and all but three of the police force’s fifty-three officers are white.
Six weeks after the incident, a press relations firm released a video in which Jackson apologized to Brown’s family for taking too long to remove Brown’s body from the street, and to the peaceful protesters who felt they couldn’t exercise their constitutional rights, saying that “For any mistakes I’ve made, I take full responsibility”. He also said that he was truly sorry for the loss of their son. An attorney for Brown’s family responded that the apology came at a time in which trust in Jackson “has reached an irreversible low”.
On October 24, Amnesty International published a report declaring human rights abuses by Ferguson police. The report cited the use of lethal force in Brown’s death, racial discrimination and excessive use of police force, imposition of restrictions on the rights to protest, intimidation of protesters, the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and long range acoustic devices, restrictions imposed on the media covering the protests, and lack of accountability for law enforcement policing protests.
A grand jury declined to indict Wilson which led to further protests, some of which were violent. This incident and the aftermath resulted in world-wide criticism of police tactics and highlighted racism in the United States.
Justice Department investigation and report
On September 2014, the Justice Department initiated a civil rights investigation to examine concerns about the department’s practices, as well as reviewing its internal investigations of use of force during the preceding four years. Jackson said he welcomed the investigation. The DOJ investigation concluded that police officers in Ferguson routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s residents, by applying racial stereotypes and discriminating against African-Americans. Internal city e-mails indicated that town officials view the department as a revenue source.
An article in The Washington Post, highlighted key insights gleaned from the report, which they describe as “scathing”, including:
- The city’s practices were shaped by revenue rather than by public safety needs.
- A singled missed, late or partial payment of a fine could mean jail time.
- Arrest warrants were “almost exclusively” used as threats to push for payments.
- The 67% of African Americans in Ferguson account for 93% of arrests made from 2012-2014.
- The disproportionate number of arrests, tickets and use of force stemmed from “unlawful bias,” rather than black people committing more crime.
- Officers used canines in law enforcement, and in every dog bite incident reported, the person bitten was black.
- From October 2012 to October 2014, every time a person was arrested because he or she was “resisting arrest,” that person was black.
The Los Angeles Times published a pieced addressing a municipal code called “Manner of walking along roadway” described in the report. This code is designed to require pedestrians to walk on the sidewalks or on the side of the road, but according to the report, Ferguson police used the code to harass blacks, with African Americans accounting for 95% of manner of walking along roadway charges from 2011 to 2013. The town imposes the highest fines in the region for violations of “manner of walking.”
VOX summarized key findings in the report, including police and municipal officials sending racist emails, police arresting black residents when they were trying to care for loved ones who were hurt, officers abusing their power and disregarding the law as part of the department’s culture while supervisors supported them, and that race had everything to do with who was stopped by police, and against whom they used force.
For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferguson_Police_Department_(Missouri)#Controversies
After The Shooting of Michael Brown
- Aug 12, 2014 President Obama Issues a Statement on the Death of Michael Brown
- Aug 13, 2014 KKK Raising Money for Police Officer Who Shot African-American Teen
- August 14, 2014 President Obama Statement on Displaced Iraqis and Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri
- Aug 18, 2014 President Obama Provides an Update on the Latest in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri
- Aug 19, 2014 From Eric Holder: A message to the people of Ferguson
- Sept 13, 2014 Justice Department to launch probe in Ferguson, Missouri
- Nov 24, 2014 Remarks by the President After Announcement of the Decision by the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Attorney General Holder Delivers Update on Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri
Washington, DC, United States
I would like to take the next few moments to address the two investigations that the Justice Department has been conducting in Ferguson, Missouri, these last several months. The matter that we are here to discuss is significant not only because of the conclusions the Department of Justice is announcing today, but also because of the broader conversations and the initiatives that those conversations have inspired across the country on the local and national level. Those initiatives have included extensive and vital efforts to examine the causes of misunderstanding and mistrust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve; to support and strengthen our public safety institutions as a whole; and to rebuild confidence wherever it has eroded.
Nearly seven months have passed since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That tragic incident provoked widespread demonstrations and stirred strong emotions from those in the Ferguson area and around our nation. It also prompted a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri and the FBI seeking to determine whether this shooting violated federal civil rights law.
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. Our investigation has been both fair and rigorous from the start. It has proceeded independently of the local investigation that concluded in November. And it has been thorough: as part of a wide-ranging examination of the evidence, federal investigators interviewed and re-interviewed eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information and independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.
This morning, the Justice Department announced the conclusion of our investigation and released a comprehensive, 87-page report documenting our findings and conclusions that the facts do not support the filing of criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson in this case. Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.
This conclusion represents the sound, considered, and independent judgment of the expert career prosecutors within the Department of Justice. I have been personally briefed on multiple occasions about these findings. I concur with the investigative team’s judgment and the determination about our inability to meet the required federal standard.
This outcome is supported by the facts we have found – but I also know these findings may not be consistent with some people’s expectations. To all those who have closely followed this case, and who have engaged in the important national dialogue it has inspired, I urge you to read this report in full.
I recognize that the findings in our report may leave some to wonder how the department’s findings can differ so sharply from some of the initial, widely reported accounts of what transpired. I want to emphasize that the strength and integrity of America’s justice system has always rested on its ability to deliver impartial results in precisely these types of difficult circumstances – adhering strictly to the facts and the law, regardless of assumptions. Yet it remains not only valid – but essential – to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.
A possible explanation for this discrepancy was uncovered during the course of our second federal investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division to determine whether Ferguson Police officials have engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal law.
As detailed in our searing report – also released by the Justice Department today – this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized; a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents.
A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue. A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents. A community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias – both implicit and explicit. And a community where all of these conditions, unlawful practices, and constitutional violations have not only severely undermined the public trust, eroded police legitimacy, and made local residents less safe – but created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them.
Of course, violence is never justified. But 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. In a sense, members of the community may not have been responding only to a single isolated confrontation, but also to a pervasive, corrosive, and deeply unfortunate lack of trust – attributable to numerous constitutional violations by their law enforcement officials including First Amendment abuses, unreasonable searches and seizures, and excessive and dangerous use of force; exacerbated by severely disproportionate use of these tactics against African Americans; and driven by overriding pressure from the city to use law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue.
According to our investigation, this emphasis on revenue generation through policing has fostered unconstitutional practices – or practices that contribute to constitutional violations – at nearly every level of Ferguson’s law enforcement system. Ferguson police officers issued nearly 50 percent more citations in the last year than they did in 2010 – an increase that has not been driven, or even accompanied, by a rise in crime.
As a result of this excessive reliance on ticketing, today, the city generates a significant amount of revenue from the enforcement of code provisions. Along with taxes and other revenue streams, in 2010, the city collected over $1.3 million in fines and fees collected by the court. For fiscal year 2015, Ferguson’s city budget anticipates fine revenues to exceed $3 million – more than double the total from just five years prior. Our review of the evidence, and our conversations with police officers, have shown that significant pressure is brought to bear on law enforcement personnel to deliver on these revenue increases. Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue – starting with fines and fine enforcement – the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining and promoting public safety. And a wide variety of tactics, including disciplinary measures, are used to ensure certain levels of ticketing by individual officers, regardless of public safety needs.
As a result, it has become commonplace in Ferguson for officers to charge multiple violations for the same conduct. Three or four charges for a single stop is considered fairly routine. Some officers even compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop – a total that, in at least one instance, rose as high as 14. And we’ve observed that even minor code violations can sometimes result in multiple arrests, jail time and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over.
For more: http://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-holder-delivers-update-investigations-ferguson-missouri
UPDATE: Ferguson police chief will resign Wednesday, sources say
3/11/15 15 minutes ago Carey Gillam; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert – Reuters
KANSAS CITY (Reuters) – The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, will resign on Wednesday, following a scathing U.S. Justice Departmentreport that found widespread abuses in the city’s policing and courts, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Chief Thomas Jackson would be the latest in a string of departures since the findings of the Justice Department probe were announced on March 4.
Protesters have called for his removal since the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager last summer, which led to the Justice Department report that found widespread racially biased practices in his department.
The death of Michael Brown, 18, set off a national furor over police use of deathly force that has continued to reverberate. During weeks of protests over Brown’s death, Jackson’s department floundered in attempts to calm things down, and state and county law enforcement took over the situation.
Jackson would follow Ferguson City Manager John Shaw, who resigned on Tuesday, and Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer, who quit on Monday. Last week, three police departmentemployees were fired for offensive emails cited in the Justice Department report.
Thomas Jackson, has commanded the police department since he was appointed by the city manager in 2010. The department has a total of 54 sworn officers divided among several divisions.
Attorney General Eric Holder said last week the Justice Department would use its full authority to reform the police department, including possibly dismantling it.
The Justice Department report detailed numerous incidents of routine harassment of African-American residents.
For more: http://news.yahoo.com/ferguson-police-chief-resign-later-wednesday-fox-news-183807227.html
2 officers shot at protest outside Ferguson police station
3/12/15 23 minutes ago AP
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Two officers were shot in front of the Ferguson Police Department early Thursday, authorities said, as demonstrators gathered after the city’s police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.
A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference. Both were taken to a hospital, where Belmar said they were conscious. He said he did not have further details about their conditions but described their injuries as “serious.”
For mre: http://news.yahoo.com/st-louis-post-dispatch-2-officers-shot-ferguson-055552082.html
Attorney General Holder Statement on the Overnight Shooting of Two Officers in Ferguson, Missouri
Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement Thursday on the overnight shooting of two officers in Ferguson, Missouri:
“This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities—from this cowardly action, to the killing of an officer in Philadelphia last week while he was buying a game for his son, to the tragic loss of a Deputy U.S. Marshal in the line of duty in Louisiana earlier this week. Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months. We wish these injured officers a full and speedy recovery. We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department’s full range of investigative resources. And we will continue to stand unequivocally against all acts of violence against cops whenever and wherever they occur.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963