Ferguson Film & the Department of Justice Report by CK

Ferguson Film & the Department of Justice Report 

The Department of Justice found a systemic pattern of racist discrimination, and came to
a settlement agreement with the Ferguson police department, in the murder case of Michael
Brown. However, a report last week suggests that the Ferguson police department did not uphold
their agreement with the Department of Justice (D.O.J.), which led the D.O.J. to sue the
Ferguson police department (F.P.D.) According to the report, the F.P.D. violated the First
(freedom of speech), Fourth (protection from unreasonable searches/seizures), Eighth
amendment (protect from cruel/unusual punishment), and Fourteenth Amendment (equal
protection) of the Constitution, including federal statutory law.

From the film and report, it is evident the F.P.D.'s practices (stops, arrests, and use of
force) perpetuate racial bias through the focus on revenue, considering the municipal courts were
filled with almost all black Americans. The report states "The City goes so far as to direct F.P.D.
to develop enforcement strategies and initiatives" (pp. 13.) Also, the report states "Since at least
2010, the court has collected more revenue for Failure to Appear charges than for any other
charge" (pp. 43.) From this perspective, it seems that African Americans are preyed upon for
non-violent offenses than their white counterparts would not be fined for, and this process has    
punished black Americans in order to fund the city's expenses, and fund the city's own
criminality. In other words, police/law enforcement see blacks as criminals to be profited off of
rather than constituents that need to be protected. Because of these violations, the community of
Ferguson distrusts the police/law enforcement, especially considering the Ferguson community
that is nearly 70% black, is not represented in the F.P.D. For example, of the 54 officers that
currently serve for the F.P.D., fifty are white and four are black.

Furthermore, racist attitudes and discrimination come from controlling images in the
media. The images greatly influence modern racism within law enforcement to "Redlining",
where blacks are segregated from whites (I.e. inner city, urban neighborhoods are separate from
the suburbs.) Similarly, racist covenants and predatory fines have led to racist policing. For
example, police officers are known for ticketing black citizens for "jay-walking", "improper turn
signal", and "expired tags", and the fines can be up to $500. To better illustrate the racial bias,
"the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for
85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by F.P.D. officers" (pp. 4.)  A
further analysis of vehicle stops/searches, where contraband was found, for example, blacks were
26% less often than white drivers of possessing contraband, even though blacks were more than
twice as likely to be searched, suggesting that officers are considering race when determining
whether to search.

The reaction from the F.P.D. in response to the rebellion of the town, was even more a
realization of white supremacy being upheld, especially when open carry of whites and stand
your-ground laws protect the ideologies of the dominate white. An old white man holding a gun
is seen as "patriotic" whereas a black man holding a gun is seen as a "gangster." Considering
police officers are likely to be white, the image of a white man with a gun is a reflection or an   
extension towards those white officers. This is especially a violent ideology when young black
men that get murdered are not armed. When black adults and kids are murdered for carrying
around toy guns, it is obvious that the law completely disregards black folks, and that the second
amendment does not apply to black citizens. This predates all of these current instances, back to
the Black panther party— when officers viewed black folks as terrorists, when in reality— the
officers were the terrorists.

Moreover, practices through the F.P.D. are not unlike the law enforcement in other areas;
sadly, harmful racist practices are rarely detected and ignored when discovered. Mentioned
within the report, "Officers rely heavily on the municipal 'Failure to Comply' charge, which
appears to be facially unconstitutional in part, and is frequently abused in practice" (pp. 16.)
Other ridiculous charges/fines include 'High Grass and Weeds', and 'manor of walking' are all
ways of controlling and oppressing black citizens by taking away their money, property, identity,
and dignity. What is also unjust, is that police officers gave preferential treatment to their friends
and public officials to remove charges. The evidence was provided through emails, which can be
read on page 75 of the report. For example, the rhetoric used for the officials was that they or
someone made a "mistake", while the rhetoric around a black man or woman for a citation/ticket
was a "lack of responsibility." Other emails amongst the police officers were ugly
demonstrations of their own racist ideologies; for example comparing President Barack and
Michelle Obama as primitive apes.

Consequently, Michael Brown is not the only victim of police brutality, and within the
last couple of years, those who have also been victims are Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, and
Eric Garner. Recently, Sandra Bland was removed from her vehicle and taken to jail for an
"improper turn", and was found hanging in her jail cell days later. There have been other cases of    
this as well. The F.P.D. and many police departments, continue to use excessive force in any
circumstance with Tasers, batons, and canines, and use force on kids or the disabled— 90% of
these cases where force was used, was towards black community members. Other recent
examples include the cop that flipped a black female student in class.

Looking forward, the City must replace revenue-driven policing, and instead focus on the
needs of the community. The F.P.D., as well as other police department, need to be trained to use
de-escalation techniques to avoid or minimize force in these situations. Another way to improve,
is that officers should "get out of their car," "stop writing tickets," and "get to know community
members" (pp. 87.) Improvements can be made by forming a diverse police staff, as well as
requiring psychological and intellectual tests. One website evidenced that the only training police
officers receive is 3-4 months of training and they must pass an exam. The qualifications for
being an officer of the law must be more rigorous and radical, for example, instead of hiring
people that may be KKK members, we should hire officers that are more like Michael Wood-- an
ex-Baltimore police officer (and an ex-Republican), that exposed police brutality and his own
involvement. Other radical changes to be made, can be to remove these insignificant laws such
as tall grass/trash/leaf litter fines, jay walking, and more. Another, is by giving back citizens the
money they owed or paid, dropping charges, and giving reparations for the damage the police
have produced within Ferguson's community. 

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