Justice Dept and Holder Say Ferguson Police and Courts Racist

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Ferguson, Missouri City Hall

The United States Department of Justice and its chief, Eric Holder, released statements on the completion of a probing investigation of the internal workings of the Ferguson, Missouri police and courts, of which the federal agency said had racist tendencies and bias. The federal investigation also cleared the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in the mainly African American suburb of St. Louis.
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After the shooting, there were several protests in the city and riots broke out after a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson. Building blazed and looters looted. There were a great number of peaceful protesters too, but police presence and officers in full riot gear was overwhelming. Members of the media were even arrested.

Now, the justice department has released this scathing report on the racist system in Ferguson.

"Now as detailed in our searing report, and it is searing, also released by the justice department today, this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized," said Holder at a press conference in Washington last week.

The justice department is calling on the city to make sweeping changes and found the city of Ferguson to have some racist tendencies toward residents in the community. Additionally, Holder said the city was often approaching law enforcement as a means to drive revenue rather than protect citizens and uphold the law. The report said many practices were illegal, unconstitutional and discriminatory.

It appears that the mighty police and law enforcement lobby may be losing its grip (though it is still strong state-by-state with its union power). Many often criticize police of abusing their power and prosecutors of rigging the grand juries so the only evidence jurors see is what may help officers get off the hook. The practice has become widely criticized after many tragic shooting deaths of unarmed, young and mostly minority, people. The BART station shooting in California produced a movie produced by Forrest Whitaker. The trial of Treyvon Martin's shooter and the choke-hold death of a man in New York have all spurred outcry from advocacy groups, citizens and others across the world.

Agencies and counties also sometimes settle out of court, as was the case when 24-year-old white Minnesotan Tyler Heilman was shot four times and killed by a sheriff's deputy. Heilman was wearing only swim trunks and was completely unarmed and unaware that the plainclothes deputy was even a law enforcement agent. The case was settled for a sum of money and the stipulation that the county and sheriff's department was not criminally responsible. Heilman was a father of a young child.

The police may not be so strongly supported in their behavior in this new era of mobile technology, where anyone can record evidence of police brutality, such as a mentally ill woman who was punched in the head continuously by a state trooper. A passerby recorded it on their smartphone and uploaded it to YouTube. There are entire websites dedicated to exposing and shaming illegal police conduct. The feds may be sending a clear message to police departments all across the country that the behavior is no longer tolerable.

Actions, however, speak louder than words, especially to the communities dealing with unfair police treatment, not just in Ferguson, but Minneapolis, Chicago, even in smaller rural and suburban communities in the Midwest, the south and the east and west coasts. According to reports in the news from Ferguson, a staff member wrote that Obama wouldn't be in office long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years." An employee was fired and two others were on leave after the emails were revealed.

The report said that much of the time blacks were disproportionately arrested for pretty crimes, were searched more frequently and were more often stopped in traffic. The use of force was too often used, according to the report.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons Image, Paul Sableman, Ferguson City Hall

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