"A Pattern or Practice of Unlawful Conduct"
March 4, 2015 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division released its report on the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, whose officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown in August 2014, prompting large-scale, nationwide protests, which only increased following a grand jury's choice not to indict Wilson for the killing.

According to the DOJ, "This investigation has revealed a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and federal statutory law," including finding that "Ferguson's police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes;" "Ferguson's own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans" and are motivated at least in part by "discriminatory intent;" "Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority," going so far as to "interpret the exercise of free-speech rights as unlawful disobedience, innocent movements as physical threats, [and] indications of mental or physical illness as belligerence;" and "Ferguson's police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular." "Police and City officials, as well as some Ferguson residents, have insisted [] that the public outcry is attributable to 'outside agitators' who do not reflect the opinions of 'real Ferguson residents,'" and "City officials have frequently asserted that the harsh and disparate results of Ferguson's law enforcement system do not indicate problems with police or court practices, but instead reflect a pervasive lack of 'personal responsibility' among 'certain segments' of the community" -- a "refrain" that "reflects many of the same racial stereotypes found in the emails between police and court supervisors."

The Washington Post details seven racist emails sent and/or received by employees of the Ferguson PD. All of the employees involved in sending and/or receiving the emails are still employed by the Ferguson PD.

The DOJ report states that "Addressing the deeply embedded constitutional deficiencies we found demands an entire reorientation of law enforcement in Ferguson."
posted by sallybrown (200 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
It would be wonderful if some real, tangible good were to emerge out of this whole mess. I guess we'll learn a lot about the odds of that when we hear how officials in Ferguson and Missouri respond to the findings.
posted by yoink at 11:02 AM on March 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Or if the DOJ takes steps to dismantle that force entirely, as when the National Guard was directed by President Kennedy to tell Alabama it could go fuck itself, the rule of law was here to stay.

It would be an outstanding moment in Obama's career if he followed Kennedy's bold (and entirely necessary) move. Perhaps this could be done at the state level, and if it were, it would be easier to accomplish - but perhaps a quieter message at a time when billboards with bullhorns need to proclaim "FUCK YOU" to racists throughout the land.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Unfortunately, racist law enforcement may be too profitable to stop.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The naked PDF, if you want to download it. 105 pages, so not a super long read.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why do i get the feeling that you could plug a whole lot of city/town names in the place of Ferguson and find that you have an accurate account of what goes on there too?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


We spoke, for example, with an African-American woman who has a still-pending case stemming from 2007, when, on a single occasion, she parked her car illegally. She received two citations and a $151 fine, plus fees. The woman, who experienced financial difficulties and periods of homelessness over several years, was charged with seven Failure to Appear offenses for missing court dates or fine payments on her parking tickets between 2007 and 2010. For each Failure to Appear, the court issued an arrest warrant and imposed new fines and fees. From 2007 to 2014, the woman was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, and paid $550 to the court for the events stemming from this single instance of illegal parking. Court records show that she twice attempted to make partial payments of $25 and $50, but the court returned those payments, refusing to accept anything less than payment in full. One of those payments was later accepted, but only after the court’s letter rejecting payment by money order was returned as undeliverable. This woman is now making regular payments on the fine. As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:12 AM on March 4, 2015 [80 favorites]


Holy lord can you imagine the Republican response if Obama mobilized the National Guard for this? I don't think I can, really. A third of the country would be rendered comatose with directionless, racist rage and cognitive dissonance. It'd be like something by a much better science apocalyptic fantasy writer than me. I'd really like for that to happen.
posted by cmoj at 11:13 AM on March 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Fire them all. And make sure they can never work in law enforcement again. And keep doing it until every single power-mad prick is relegated to the equivalent of digging ditches in Sheboygan. With their bare hands, cause you can't even trust them with shovels. Make life hard on these bastards.

But it'll never happen.
posted by umberto at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


I guess we'll learn a lot about the odds of that when we hear how officials in Ferguson and Missouri respond to the findings.

Voluntary disbandment is probably too much to hope for.
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2015


For anyone interested in following daily-to-weekly news on the progression of the movement spurred in part by Brown's killing, you can sign up for Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson's newsletter This is the Movement here. They were recently awarded the 2015 Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award.

(I don't have involvement in this, other than being in awe of and grateful for their efforts (and their Twitter accounts)).
posted by sallybrown at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


I suspect the Ferguson PD is far from alone. If somehow the DOJ was able to investigate every single police department in this country, I think the majority (maybe even the great majority) of reports would include similar details.
posted by sallybrown at 11:17 AM on March 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sarah Stillman in the New Yorker has done some outstanding reporting on the emergence of a for-profit model in police and justice systems all over America. Here's a piece on civil forfeiture, and here's another on the "alternatives-to-incarceration industry." Neither should be read without medication if you have blood-pressure problems.

In some ways I think the highest chance for real systemic change might be if Ferguson chooses to fight DOJ tooth and nail. I think the plain facts of what is going on would, in fact, shock the conscience of the broader public if they could just be made aware of how cynical the abuse and exploitation is--and a bit public court battle might help to rally support for a more sweeping campaign of reform.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on March 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


In the coverage I've been hearing about this over the last couple of days, local attorneys and activists and residents have all been quoted talking about how good it is to have this concrete evidence of the racist system in its full glory, because now maybe people will believe them. I wish I believed that.
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why do i get the feeling that you could plug a whole lot of city/town names in the place of Ferguson and find that you have an accurate account of what goes on there too?

I don't doubt it. The NYPD basically showed itself to be a racist gang with no accountability post Garner, cops pulling up and shooting children has been fully excused and blamed on the victim, and there's the latest public execution in LA.

Police culture in the US is fundamentally racist, violent, broken and unaccountable, and the establishment most places is complicit in that lack of accountability.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


Won't someone please make me Emperor Dictator of Earth? I promise I'll be benevolent and only use my powers for good!

(Alternately, just give me the power to control the oxygen, and I don't care who makes the laws.)
posted by tzikeh at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Why do i get the feeling that you could plug a whole lot of city/town names in the place of Ferguson and find that you have an accurate account of what goes on there too?

Certainly the "law enforcement efforts are focused on generating revenue" bit is true of nearly every community in the St. Louis metro area.

A couple of years ago, St. Ann briefly tried a "beautification" project focused on fining people with, for instance, mildly discolored siding. I guess it didn't generate enough revenue because it basically went nowhere. But we still have our 20mph, 5 days a week, 13 hours a day, year-round school zone with automated traffic cameras. (And it's a middle school, and there's already a crosswalk with traffic light.)
posted by Foosnark at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even the summary is using pretty strong language.
The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. This is saying that it's not just a disparate impact situation, but speaks to the motivations of the PD.

The municipal court does not act as a neutral arbiter of the law. Ouch.

Goddamn profit motive. Goddamn refusal to tax appropriately.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:23 AM on March 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


You know how your uncle's cop buddy always insists there's no quota for tickets?

Each month, the municipal court provides FPD supervisors with a list of the number of tickets issued by each officer and each squad. Supervisors have posted the list inside the police station, a tactic officers say is meant to push them to write more citations.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:24 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The great-grandfather of modern law enforcement was policing slavery, the lineage is still strong, and mostly ignored. I am surprised that we are surprised, yet still, not surprised, considering the astounding levels of ignorance US citizens have of US history.
"The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:28 AM on March 4, 2015 [40 favorites]


Something to remember this election season as you hear rhetoric about "states rights" and smaller federal presence is that Governor Wallace was giving a speech about just that as he blocked the doors to Foster Auditorium - DIRECTLY leading to federal action and the creation of the Civil Rights act.

As the myopic rhetoric ramps up - which it will - it will serve us well to know the history behind these acts, as well at that of our federal institutions. We (as in national political dialogue) tend to frame all of these discussions as if they are just happening for the first time.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Wilson told prosecutors and investigators that he responded to Brown reaching into the
SUV and punching him by withdrawing his gun because he could not access less lethal weapons
while seated inside the SUV."


BRB, I need to look up how one would be unable to access their own hands to shield themselves or roll up a window or simply not take our your gun.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:32 AM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Goddamn refusal to tax appropriately.

Yeah, this is really the big one. I mean, the racism is endemic and appalling, but it's also in some sense "old news." What's new in this is the shifting of the burden of funding the courts and the police onto the backs of the "criminals." Historic, endemic racism is obviously what dictates the fact that that means a relentless conscription of black people into the 'criminal/revenue-generating' class, but this systemic shake-down of the underclasses is a product of the success of the right-wing anti-tax campaigns of the last three or four decades.
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on March 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


From the report, via Adam Serwer:
Even relatively routine misconduct by Ferguson police officers can have significant consequences for the people whose rights are violated. For example, in the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also asked to search the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.
It's almost always the routine, "banality of evil" type conduct that causes the most harm to the most people, and it's a shame that the only time we ever seem to get around to finding those routine abuses is when there's a major event like the Mike Brown killing that forces us to look deeper. It's never actually just a few bad actors freelancing, it's a pervasive attitude resulting from institutional decay and a total lack of consequences for wrongdoing.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:36 AM on March 4, 2015 [92 favorites]


As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.

That's remarkably similar to how criminal organizations keep people on a string.
posted by bonehead at 11:40 AM on March 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


I would love to, and hope we will see this have an impactful change on the policing in Ferguson, and it might. But the cynic in me says that this will be just a nasty callout if that change doesn't come from higher up.

Because my guess is that, given an edict to make changes with no federal oversight, this will be an opportunity for the local level law enforcement to shuffle things around just enough to say that they've made "formative improvements" without actually fixing anything.

That said, with this statement officially made by the DOJ, the people fighting for change have an example of a demonstrable failure when the law enforcement community said there was none. Hopefully this could lead to similar scrutiny in other places.

On a more petty note, It also gives me a wonderful thing to point to when I next get into an argument with right wing zealots who have been talking shit about the minority community, and the overall reaction to law enforcement since the lack of indictment and the subsequent visibility of how often cops shoot black men.

I know I shouldn't, but I also know I'm going to darkly enjoy those conversations.
posted by quin at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


A few days ago, the Washington Post ran this piece on the number of growing private police officers in Virginia. These are private citizens who have been granted actual legal police powers by the state as "special conservators of the peace" or SCOPs. Most of them seem to be entrepreneurial operations designed to provide an enhanced version of private security. But at least one of the guys profiled seems to just be a police bug who likes being a cop.

The piece makes no mention of race, but I'd be willing to bet that very close to 100 percent of these officers are white, and that a black person applying for police powers under this program might find it a lot more difficult. But it also occurred to me that the best way to change some shit real fast in this country would be for a bunch of black people to get themselves trained and certified in this program and start patrolling middle and upper middle class white suburban neighborhoods with the same kind of "broken windows" policing that is routinely applied to poor black neighborhoods.

I'm not exactly sure what that change would look like, but you can bet some shit would hit a whole bunch of fans with significant force.
posted by Naberius at 11:56 AM on March 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


The officer also asked to search the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code.

God this makes me angry. My first thought was "but why didn't he report this?" and then of course the question is "to whom would he report it?" and "why would he possibly think it would do any good?".

My husband used to be a public defender and we were talking this morning about how so many people know that the cops lie very, very often, but if you try to say in any individual instance that a police officer is lying you might as well just plead guilty because the court either won't believe you or won't allow you to say it. I get why "the cop was lying" sounds like a grasping at straws defense except that, unfortunately, VERY OFTEN THE POLICE LIE and yet, even though we know the police lie in the abstract, no one is willing to acknowledge that any police statement in any given case could possibly be a reflection of this fact.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:57 AM on March 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Race by James B. Comey, Director - Federal Bureau of Investigation

Hey don't blame law enforcement, cops only seem racist because minorities are just more criminal </sarcasm>
posted by rustcrumb at 11:59 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm genuinely starting to think it's time for some sort of nationwide decimation of the police. I mean, no executions, obviously. But these problems are so endemic and systemic and spread across so many different police departments. What's the solution? We can point to so many causes and factors, and we can have all these reports, but how do we fix the entire nation's police force? It's validating to have the DOJ say "yeah, shit's fucked up," I just wonder how or if we move past that.

I don't have any answers and don't even know where to start (top-down? bottom to top?), though obviously you don't want me as Empress of the United States given that I default to the grimmer tactics of the Roman Republic when attempting to address our societal ills.
posted by yasaman at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


tonycpsu - people who don't want to believe cops would ever do such a thing will never believe there wasn't more to that story.

that man could be the son of god reborn and have the skyfather himself come down from the clouds and say that the man had done nothing wrong ever in his whole life (because the sky father is omniniscient and omnipotent) and that the reason the cop arrested him was simply because the cop was a racist, power hungry, asshole (remember great skyfather knows all!!!) and people would STILL say "i don't know... i don't think we have the whole story."
posted by sio42 at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


But it also occurred to me that the best way to change some shit real fast in this country would be for a bunch of black people to get themselves trained and certified in this program and start patrolling middle and upper middle class white suburban neighborhoods with the same kind of "broken windows" policing that is routinely applied to poor black neighborhoods.

And then the "real" police would come along, shoot them, not provide or call for medical help as they bleed out on the streets, and not get indicted.
posted by sallybrown at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Because my guess is that, given an edict to make changes with no federal oversight, this will be an opportunity for the local level law enforcement to shuffle things around just enough to say that they've made "formative improvements" without actually fixing anything.

I would be fairly surprised if the people who can actually implement the recommendations did anything more than the minimum to avoid direct negative consequences.

The report says "In the coming weeks, we will seek to work with the City of Ferguson toward developing and reaching agreement on an appropriate framework for reform". Does anyone know what the DOJ could do if the City of Ferguson blew them off?
posted by aubilenon at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2015


But it also occurred to me that the best way to change some shit real fast in this country would be for a bunch of black people to get themselves trained and certified in this program and start patrolling middle and upper middle class white suburban neighborhoods with the same kind of "broken windows" policing that is routinely applied to poor black neighborhoods. Naberius at 2:56 PM on March 4


And then the "real" police would come along, shoot them, not provide or call for medical help as they bleed out on the streets, and not get indicted.
posted by sallybrown at 3:04 PM on March 4 [+][!]

i'm with sallybrown on this one.

i think the Black Panthers tried to start patrolling their OWN neighborhoods since the police didn't care enough to do so.

that didn't go so well.

doing that through white burbclaves is not going to go well.
posted by sio42 at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even relatively routine misconduct by Ferguson police officers can have significant consequences for the people whose rights are violated.

Reading the details of this really got my blood boiling. "To Protect and Serve" should not exclusively mean "our own department," damn it!

Does anyone know what the DOJ could do if the City of Ferguson blew them off?

Much like we have been discussing in the threads regarding Alabama and their refusal to comply with the rulings of the supreme court, the national guard has been deployed to deal with racist and corrupt police forces before - See the selma to montgomery marches. That was to protect marchers though, not to dismantle the police (as far as I know.) I'm curious what other historical precedent for this there is.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2015


Anyone ever notice how when police departments engage in systematic illegal behavior the consequences for them are... Consent decrees?

I'll tell you, if I engaged in systematic illegal behavior that the DOJ had evidence of, in violation of federal law, after long costly investigations, I'd be looking at a lifetime in prison, and would only be able to plea down if I was a rich or powerful person with an army of lawyers.

But cops? Oh, the consequences for their brutality, illegal discrimination (if there are consequences) is the federal government giving them the stink eye and a stern warning that 'were watching you' (with more tax dollars allocated to actually watching them more carefully in the future).

And that's the BEST case scenario... The NORMAL case scenario when police departments are engaged in systematic illegal behavior is... Nothing.

sigh.
posted by el io at 12:18 PM on March 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think it's kinda funny that white nationalists seem to fantasize about a race war, without seeming to notice that there's been one going on for decades against anyone not considered white enough.

Maybe "funny" isn't the right word. Depressing? Fucked up?
posted by qcubed at 12:19 PM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Does anyone know what the DOJ could do if the City of Ferguson blew them off?

The next step would be a suit from the Civil Rights Division of DOJ to force changes through a Consent Decree, and possibly and an independent federal monitor. Overview of Section 14141 from 2009 can be read here: [pdf law review article].

It's possible that simply defending a pattern and practice suit could bankrupt the city, so there's that too.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:19 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




may the cops' underwear all spontaneously fill with bees...
In one instance, for example, a woman called FPD to report a domestic disturbance. By the time the police arrived, the woman’s boyfriend had left. The police looked through the house and saw indications that the boyfriend lived there. When the woman told police that only she and her brother were listed on the home’s occupancy permit, the officer placed the woman under arrest for the permit violation and she was jailed. In another instance, after a woman called police to report a domestic disturbance and was given a summons for an occupancy permit violation, she said, according to the officer’s report, that she “hated the Ferguson Police Department and will never call again, even if she is being killed.”
posted by nadawi at 12:28 PM on March 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


Etrigan, I'm flagging that as fantastic to forward to all of my contacts who are sending me shit insisting that Obama issued an executive order banning .223 ammo (which is the present completely inaccurate fever sweeping that segment of america)
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:28 PM on March 4, 2015


Some manufacturer of .223 ammo must be looking at a slow first quarter.
posted by Etrigan at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Use of dogs by...police seemed to be reserved exclusively for African-Americans."

These are the words coming from the Attorney General in 2015, not 1965. And yet people still insist that Jim Crow is dead.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


These reports will be great evidence to show to all the members of my family who never listen to evidence. *sigh*
posted by DGStieber at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


from chris hayes's twitter account : Funny story from Ferguson. When I first went to interview Ferguson Mayor James Knowles we were shooting a walk and talk and w/o any apparent irony, the mayor suggested we just walk down the middle of the street to do it.
posted by nadawi at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


Why do i get the feeling that you could plug a whole lot of city/town names in the place of Ferguson and find that you have an accurate account of what goes on there too?

Because racism is a cornerstone of the foundation of the nation's history.
posted by rhizome at 12:41 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


At least the dogs are colorblind, I guess?
posted by mikurski at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2015


Actually I kind of doubt that.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man, I can't wait!

I can't wait to hear talk from Obama about how even though these are serious charges and cause for serious concern, we must look forward not backwards!

Can't wait to hear Robert McCullough assert that while some of the findings are troubling, he has full confidence that the majority of officers uphold the law in an honorable way; exhaustive internal investigations will uncover the root causes, and moving forward, a full commitment will be made to reform! Reform that never comes!

I can't wait to hear the continued deafening silence on this issue from every prominent Democrat not named Warren!

Can't wait to keep seeing surveys that show the majority of white Americans think there's really not all that much racism anymore!

It's gonna be awesome -- I'm popping my popcorn and chilling my beer right now!

/starts crying
posted by lord_wolf at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


Ferguson probably has municipal bond obligations, pension obligations, etc. If the police department doesn't pay the bills with continuing extortion, where's the money going to come from? Who's going to support other funding for Ferguson? No one on the left wants to give tax money to known racist shitheads, and the right thinks that only corporations deserve taxpayer support. Ferguson will continue business as usual or go bankrupt, because what other choices are there?
posted by elizilla at 12:49 PM on March 4, 2015


A couple of years ago, St. Ann briefly tried a "beautification" project focused on fining people with, for instance, mildly discolored siding. I guess it didn't generate enough revenue because it basically went nowhere. But we still have our 20mph, 5 days a week, 13 hours a day, year-round school zone with automated traffic cameras. (And it's a middle school, and there's already a crosswalk with traffic light.)

And I bet they issue lots of jaywalking tickets to black kids on that street too.
posted by elizilla at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


As to the question of how to fix this, the second act of the second part of This American Life's segment on the police's view of race shows how the Las Vegas PD has taken measures to greatly improve in the last few years. I was admittedly a bit shocked to hear how quickly and relatively easily everything improved once the police started to take the problem seriously. It seems to me the greatest issue is actually convincing/forcing police departments around the country to adopt the same measures. I fear that this won't happen until we get presidential candidates that can run on a platform of police overhaul, but that may just be career suicide for far too long.
posted by Skephicles at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


where's the money going to come from?

maybe they can sell some of the giant armored vehicles and sound cannons that they use to terrorize their citizens with.
posted by nadawi at 12:53 PM on March 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


Something nearly everyone can agree on, left or right:

Way too many police in USA. Way too many laws in the books.

It's past time to thin the law enforcement herds and cut back this legal thickets... Only remaining debate should be on planning and doing these things in a controlled fashion vs. "just nuke it from orbit to be sure".
posted by bert2368 at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: “"Use of dogs by...police seemed to be reserved exclusively for African-Americans."

These are the words coming from the Attorney General in 2015, not 1965. And yet people still insist that Jim Crow is dead.”
You know, that was the thing that bothered me the most on the nightly news last night. They always show the "rioting." They showed people breaking the windshield of a police car after the grand jury's no true bill. They showed police in riot gear pointing rifles and shotguns at people. They showed tear gas and people running in the streets. But they never show them bringing out attack dogs to "control" a candlelight vigil. Q.E.D.


P.S. I remember Al Sharpton saying to presidential candidates, "Don't get laryngitis," on the police problem. Lots of us do. We see y'all trying to torpedo Sharpton. Especially you Byron Allen — yes that Byron Allen from Real People.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Page 83: Another concern we heard from many African-American residents, and saw in the files we reviewed, was of casual intimidation by FPD officers, including threats to draw or fire their weapons, often for seemingly little or no cause.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:21 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]




Ken White/Popehat has some thoughts on the non-indictment aspect of the report. It fits with what a lot of the lawyers here talked about in the "real" non-indictment proceeding - the case is probably bad enough not to get a conviction, but the method used in this case is different than normal. But he's a lot more eloquent, worth checking out.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:36 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


While it is good to see this report showing oversight and investigation into the institutional problems there, it seems like a rather glaring omission to not note that the Justice Department also cleared Darren Wilson according to the Washington Post.

This goes to show that it is important to pick your battles and focus your energies on the right targets. So much of all the Ferguson talk was people wanting to call Wilson a murderer and how the grand jury couldn't possibly have been acting neutrally when they no-billed Wilson, and DOJ's clearing of Wilson shows that such allegations were misplaced. A lot of the sloganeering turned out to be wrong too. What was never wrong, and was indeed needed, was those who focused on the systemic racism and problems in Ferguson and the DOJ's report confirms those problems. And it was obviously the systemic problems that led to the boiling point when Brown was killed. Good for the DOJ for recognizing this and investigating the systemic problems and highlighting them. With luck, the report will be a basis to address other areas that suffer from similar problems. There appears to be a lot of good stuff that should have broad application.
posted by dios at 1:43 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


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.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that it is important to pick your battles but
there is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety.
is about as limp an exoneration as one can possibly imagine.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


indictment or no, darren wilson is a murderer and you really can't compare federal civil rights charges to the charges the grand jury were looking at - just because federal charges weren't brought doesn't absolve the travesty of justice that was the grand jury.
posted by nadawi at 1:47 PM on March 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


about as limp an exoneration as one can possibly imagine.

I thought that too, but then I kept reading.
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2015


So much of all the Ferguson talk was people wanting to call Wilson a murderer and how the grand jury couldn't possibly have been acting neutrally when they no-billed Wilson

Because a white cop acting in a racist system couldn't possibly have been acting from racism, and the grand jury couldn't possibly have been affected by the same structural racism that underlies the rest of the criminal justice system? You act like people thinking Wilson murdered Brown is some sort of fantastic act of imagination; that being angry at the grand jury for returning no indictment was some wild ridiculousness. I don't understand that at all.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


dios: "While it is good to see this report showing oversight and investigation into the institutional problems there, it seems like a rather glaring omission to not note that the Justice Department also cleared Darren Wilson according to the Washington Post."

"Cleared of wrongdoing" and "unable to gather sufficient evidence of guilt" aren't the same thing.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:53 PM on March 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


I thought that too, but then I kept reading.

That's just crazy talk.

(goes to keep reading)
posted by Justinian at 1:54 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


So in other words, evidence doesn't matter to you. You're just going to believe what you want to believe. And when two neutral arbiters who actually review the actual evidence in detail and say "there is not evidence sufficient to prosecute this man", you just are going to ignore it and assume he is guilty anyhow. There's a word for devoting yourself to point of view irrespective of evidence or a rational basis.
posted by dios at 1:55 PM on March 4, 2015


i believe that the department of justice could not prosecute darren wilson on the very narrow set of options available to them. darren wilson is a murderer.
posted by nadawi at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


"there is not evidence sufficient to prosecute this man", you just are going to ignore it and assume he is guilty anyhow

It's not that there isn't evidence to prosecute him. It's that there's not evidence to prosecute with a reasonable assumption of a conviction UNDER the federal guidelines.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Cleared of wrongdoing" and "unable to gather sufficient evidence of guilt" aren't the same thing.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:53 PM on March 4


Legally they are. In our criminal justice system, where a party is innocent until proven guilty, the absence of evidence to prove guilt means the party is innocent. A party doesn't have to prove innocence; we assume everyone is innocent. It is the operating assumption unless a sufficient quantum of competent evidence exists to carry a burden to dispense with that operating assumption.
posted by dios at 1:59 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Legally they are, a-legally they aren't. We've had this derail a million times, so how about we drop it?
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


the criminal justice system (supposedly, unless you're black in a place like ferguson) assumes everyone is innocent. we are under no such restriction. darren wilson is a murderer.
posted by nadawi at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Legally they are. In our criminal justice system,

MetaFilter is part of the criminal justice system?

i put on my robe and judge's hat
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


In our criminal justice system

The Ferguson criminal justice system is exactly what the DOJ is criticizing here.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok, upon further reading they do go a lot further than the initial legalese summary.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2015


FPD should be shut down simply for the amount of times DOJ uses the word "unconstitutional" in this report.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


You act like people thinking Wilson murdered Brown is some sort of fantastic act of imagination; that being angry at the grand jury for returning no indictment was some wild ridiculousness. I don't understand that at all.
posted by rtha at 3:52 PM on March 4


You probably don't understand it because I said nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I expressly noted that the boiling point with this killing was because of the long term systemic racism. I certainly understand people being suspicious of the police and this report shows that such suspicion was well-founded and that there is going to be federal oversight to combat it. I said I agreed that there was good cause to complain about a systemic problem there, and I hope this report can be used to combat such problems elsewhere. My only point is that the systemic problem was a good cause to pursue and should have been the target of the protests. And I submit that pursuing that cause does not require taking the position that Wilson is a murderer and the grand jury was racist for not recognizing it and the DOJ are weak-willed for not prosecuting the evil murderer who must be guilty even in the absence of evidence because I believe he is guilty murderer who shot someone with their hands up in cold blood.... etc. We didn't need to set aside our principle of justice to punish Wilson out of retribution for the systemic problem.

It was clear from the outset that a primary cause of this tragedy was the bad relations between the police and black citizens in Ferguson. But for those bad relations, this probably would not have happened. Hopefully this is a first step to fixing those and getting rid of the discriminatory and improper practices.
posted by dios at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you, GoingToMaine, for the PDF link - I looked for it in a bunch of different places, including the DoJ website, and couldn't find it.
posted by kristi at 2:10 PM on March 4, 2015


I'm going to print this out and give it to the next person that asks "why would they riot it their own neighborhoods?"
posted by The Hamms Bear at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


> the systemic problem was a good cause to pursue and should have been the target of the protests

Jesus christ it was a target. It's like you watched and read completely different coverage, and didn't see any of the people calling for the feds to step in, for there to be an investigation of the police force, for people to pay attention to the overwhelming systemic bias.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on March 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


If the FPD is shut down, the most likely next step is that the St. Louis County Police take over law enforcement in Ferguson.

The county cops are the ones with the MRAPs and sonic weaponry and tear gas and the threats to shoot journalists in the head.

Just saying.
posted by Foosnark at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus christ it was a target. It's like you watched and read completely different coverage, and didn't see any of the people calling for the feds to step in, for there to be an investigation of the police force, for people to pay attention to the overwhelming systemic bias.

You don't have to be exacerbated in discussing this. I think I was pretty clear in supporting those who were focused on the systemic problem while also being clear in criticizing those whose target was claiming there was something wrong with Wilson being no-billed. Of course, the worse rioting was a result of the no-bill and a lot of the most vocal stuff was premised on Wilson being a liar and executing an innocent person because he was black, etc.. And we still people in this very thread who are rejecting the conclusions of the investigation and insisting that Wilson is a murderer. However, if they read through the extensive DOJ report, they'll see that the DOJ noted that Wilson's explanation of the facts is consistent with the objective evidence and eyewitness testimony, while the "hands up don't shoot" theory has no evidentiary basis objectively or through competent eye witness testimony. So if you'd actually see what I am saying instead of acting like my comments are beyond the pale, you'd see that my only point above was it was misplaced when people focused on the "Wilson is a murderer" thing instead of the systemic problem. Do you really think that is a crazy position and I'm a bad person for noting that? If not, then maybe don't be so hostile in discussing this.
posted by dios at 2:31 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


the systemic problem is that the moment Michael Brown tried to punch Officer WIlson/reached into the cop car, he signed his own death warrant in most court districts in the US.

But, what is galling about the grand jury is that McCullogh was obviously forced to convene, and instead of running a regular grand jury proceeding which would have likely not pursued charges against Wilson, like grand juries across the US, McCullogh instead turned the grand jury into a circus performance for his cop friends and a giant "Fuck You" to whoever forced him to convene it in the first place.

Now, if Obama were actually a Chicago pol, McCullogh would be unemployed after having accidentally fallen down a flight of stairs, twice, but instead we have the usual appeals to process and the absolute certainty no matter how strongly worded the report is, there is no political will to back it up with actual change.

Barring a Chicago-style response, McCullogh should be facing a investigation for how he conducted that grand jury but people on the left are too easily distracted by racist cops to see how corrupt the courts, judges and prosecutors have become. The issue isn't the cops, it's the courts.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:33 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


If Missouri wanted to save itself a ton of trouble it would act to eliminate the hundreds of tiny jurisdictions around Saint Louis and consolidate the ridiculous number of tiny jurisdictions and municipalities. These tiny municipalities are at the heart of the whole crappy system. Consolidate them and then create new police, fire, school districts for the newly created municipalities. This process lets you cull the herd of bad actors and bring in fresh blood.
posted by humanfont at 2:35 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


[dios, you're kind of doing a thing you do and in an inevitably stressful thread on a difficult topic it would be helpful if you could just sort of let it be at this point.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


And we still people in this very thread who are rejecting the conclusions of the investigation and insisting that Wilson is a murderer.

As neither officers of the court nor sworn jurors, they/we can think what we like, and talk about it. This site is not a court of law, and I do not require the input of one in order to discuss my ordinary-person opinion of something that is not just a legal matter.

Do you really think that is a crazy position and I'm a bad person for noting that?


I think you like to cherry-pick your examples in discussions like this. You're not alone in that tendency, of course. But this isn't a courtroom, and insisting all you want that everything be viewed only through that lens is .... well, you can do that, but no one else is required to follow that rule.

Anyway, here we all are, discussing the thing you think we ought to be discussing, but you wanted to make sure we knew you were right all those months ago and that the protesters were doing it wrong, so you brought it up, and I bit. My bad.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


The important thing to remember is that systematic racism is the real criminal. Oh, and Darren Wilson. He is a murderer. And a creep.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:54 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cleared of wrongdoing" and "unable to gather sufficient evidence of guilt" aren't the same thing.
Legally they are.


Generally I don't mind having a criminal justice system that errs on the side of caution, and I accept that sometimes it'll bring cases like Wilson's the outcome is as much about the limits of our powers of perception and recall as anything else.

But someone is going to contend that should be the end of any discussion or speculation, though, I have to laugh. And in particular a lawyer! Most lawyers I'm acquainted with become through their practice *more* acutely aware of the gaps that can and often do exist between what the law can bring to a given case and other reasonable ethical judgments, not less, and you're apparently volunteering yourself as a counterexample.

And as for people who choose to believe there was a problem with Wilson's actions here that the courts couldn't address, well, I'd turn to the words of the report:

there is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety.

What's Wilson's defense that they can't overcome? His own stated subjective belief.

That's apparently a successful legal defense for Wilson, perhaps as it should be if it's a reasonable defense for anyone and can't be successfully challenged. But that hardly means the defense itself is beyond question or discussion, and no one here certainly needs a pardon for indulging in their own stated subjective beliefs when that's apparently a big part of what the case turns on.

Or for suspecting that absent far more rigorous oversight than we now have, that without a disciplined practice of constantly gathering more of that evidence you're fond of... the defense accepted here essentially means most police officers can murder without fear of much in the way of legal consequences.
posted by weston at 2:58 PM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


You should read the report. Like I said it goes beyond just saying they couldn't disprove his claim. It says his version of events is consistent both with other eyewitness accounts and the forensic evidence.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2015


The Ferguson PD is the baddest gang in town and they don't much care for black people, as extensively detailed in this report. This created an environment which allowed Michael Brown's body to be left in the street for hours while Darren Wilson was spirited away to anonymous safety by his colleagues, who then proceeded to orchestrate a half-hearted investigation which featured written reports of a quality that wouldn't have been accepted for grading at your local elementary school. Would it would have been somehow tactically superior for the protestors to focus on this structural problem in the moment, rather than on the man whose body was removed from the scene of his death in the back of a police SUV rather than the typical coroner van or ambulance? I honestly don't know, although I suspect no more would have been achieved. However, I think the question resonates with the privilege of not having to care about the outcome produced by the answer. I don't think many people really expected Wilson would face any consequences for this at all, and now that time has passed and we know that he hasn't, that he's become a right wing cause celebre, that he's received six-figures worth of donations, and that the Ferguson PD still maintains that they were in the right, it's no wonder that calls to defer to the legal system which declined to press charges fall on unsympathetic ears. It's really easy to critique the someone's tactics when you don't have to wake up in their house the next day, to a world which has not changed (except that continues to no longer contain Michael Brown).
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:38 PM on March 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


If the FPD is shut down, the most likely next step is that the St. Louis County Police take over law enforcement in Ferguson.

They'll need some more police officers; and they'll have a convenient pool of recently unemployed people with police experience and local knowledge. Who saw that one coming?
posted by acb at 4:20 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, being that when Darren Wilson's employment with the Jennings PD ended when that department was dissolved and the St. Louis County PD took over, and he applied in Ferguson rather than go to the county, I think it's safe to say that not all Ferguson officers will meet the standards of the county. Cold comfort, and not to conclude that county PD is racism-free, but progress by attrition is still progress.
posted by rhizome at 5:06 PM on March 4, 2015


Then again, this report isn't about Wilson. There were two reports, and this post's is about the festering racist shithole that is the Ferguson PD.
posted by rhizome at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fortunately, there are 89 other municipal police forces within St. Louis County ready and willing to absorb the Ferguson diaspora, should the department fold.

What really needs to happen is a federal take over of the entire St. Louis metro area, although that's about as likely as DOJ indicting Jamie Dimon.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, what really needs to happen is for more contemporary police behavior to be classified as felonies. Among many other things.
posted by rhizome at 5:19 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Actual investigation of said felonies, also, and not a cover up followed by some grand jury horseshit where everyone waves their hands in the air and says "well we just don't know".
posted by Artw at 5:39 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be sure, there is a gray area of criminal law that subjects acts to judgement by essentially private entities in the form of Internal Affairs and the police unions. It's the deference of prosecutors to this murky process that allows these situations to really fester. There is some amount of activity that is classed as an investigation by any basic definition, it's the results that are in control of conflicted actors. By that token, it's about "who" is investigating.
posted by rhizome at 5:42 PM on March 4, 2015


Somebody got fired. However, the mayor also said, "We must all work to address issues of racial disparity." No, man, Ferguson fights any oversight. This entire state of affairs is a government baby, created without citizen input. It's all on the Mayor and the police to prove they can fix themselves because they have proven they don't want anybody else's opinions on the matter.
posted by rhizome at 6:24 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have never understood the going after Wilson v. going after "the system" binary. Is there a difference, really? Systems are not just implemented by people; they are made of people. The most immediate thing that needs to be dismantled in an oppressive system is the power of those who comprise it.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:47 PM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's all on the Mayor and the police to prove they can fix themselves because they have proven they don't want anybody else's opinions on the matter.
While I agree in principle, in practice you are asking a scorpion to change its nature, halfway across the river. Ain't gonna happen. Ferguson is rotten to the core, and the police department AND the mayor should be changed completely.

They put Detroit in state management for the puny problem of money. A moral country would be willing to put Ferguson in state management for this.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:05 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


The BBC has an interesting report that touches on this: Claire Bolderson reports on a network of ninety separate cities in St Louis County, most of which have their own courts and police forces. Critics say that their size makes them financially unviable and allege that some of them boost their incomes by fining their own citizens and locking them up when they can't pay.
posted by anadem at 7:39 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.

That's remarkably similar to how criminal organizations keep people on a string.


It's essentially Debt Peonage/Slavery.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:14 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sigh.
posted by limeonaire at 10:15 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let us go back in time when the public servants were required to reside in the place being served. If one is a part of the community, the abuse of members of that community is curtailed. This should go for officeholders as well as law enforcement.
posted by scottymac at 11:37 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked that these officers who have engaged in the sort of conduct seen after the public shooting of Mike Brown and during the Ferguson protests have turned out to be racist shitbags. Shocked.
*sips tea*

It seems like a lot of police seem to want to be the hero in their own action movie, where A GOOD COP has to work against the system to bring REAL JUSTICE to the world. Because the SYSTEM IS RIGGED against *real* justice. And that's really not a viable model for building a law enforcement organization.

I like police - I like my local cops, and I like the platonic ideal of cops and the promise of what good community-oriented law enforcement can do for a community by making everyone safer. But dammit, there is a dark nasty gangland undercurrent to a lot of cops out there.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:52 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]




Needless to say, the local (Pittsburgh) news report focused almost entirely on the clearing of Wilson, and to the extent they mentioned the racist police policies at all, they characterized it as "polarization between police and the community."

So there's your "liberal" mainstream media framing.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:21 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, and after some initial cause for optimism that the new Pittsburgh police chief would improve race relations, he seems to be falling into line with the status quo.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:45 AM on March 5, 2015


The great-grandfather of modern law enforcement was policing slavery, the lineage is still strong, and mostly ignored.

Yep. Here's what KRS-One had to say in "Sound of Da Police" (1993):

Now here's a likkle truth
Open up your eye
While you're checking out the boom-bap, check the exercise
Take the word "overseer," like a sample
Repeat it very quickly in a crew for example
Overseer
Overseer
Overseer
Overseer
Officer, Officer, Officer, Officer!
Yeah, officer from overseer
You need a little clarity?
Check the similarity!
The overseer rode around the plantation
The officer is off patrolling all the nation
The overseer could stop you what you're doing
The officer will pull you over just when he's pursuing
The overseer had the right to get ill
And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill
The officer has the right to arrest
And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest!
(Woop!) They both ride horses
After 400 years, I've _got_ no choices!

One of my dearest friends, who described himself as one of America's few black conservatives back in 1993, had a good laugh at this verse, especially the faux folk etymology part, when the song first came out.

Nowadays, he's changed his views on KRS-One's theory.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:48 AM on March 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ferguson is rotten to the core, and the police department AND the mayor should be changed completely.

We don't disagree, but I'm coming to the mind that the police chief and city manager should be brought up on RICO charges.
posted by rhizome at 11:43 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Claire Bolderson reports on a network of ninety separate cities in St Louis County, most of which have their own courts and police forces. Critics say that their size makes them financially unviable and allege that some of them boost their incomes by fining their own citizens and locking them up when they can't pay.

Ferguson is actually toward the larger end of the cities of STL County by population, at 22K residents.

21 of STL County's cities have a population smaller than 1000 (the smallest is 12) but most of those don't have their own police departments.

Charlack, pop. 1431, 1/3 of a square mile, has its own police department with 8 employees and 5 reserve officers. A former police chief has said publicly that traffic fines cover 29% of the city's budget -- and they also bought him a trip to Hawaii, and eventual corruption charges.

Likewise Edmundson, pop. 834, 1/3 of a square mile, has 9 full-time officers, and last year a memo from the mayor was leaked to the police department to write more tickets, reminding them that the city needed revenue and that the PD budget, and therefore their salaries, is directly tied to the number of tickets they write.

These are cities with interstate highways running through them, so it's much more common for them to write tickets for non-residents. There are a couple of places where you can stand at one city limits sign on the highway, and spit on the next city limits sign.
posted by Foosnark at 1:43 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]




Ta-Nehisi Coates on the report: The Gangsters of Ferguson. Pulls no punches, naturally.
posted by suelac at 4:02 PM on March 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


This article is sickening. A bunch of the key players haven't read the DOJ report. Also, and perhaps more shocking to me, is how a person can act as a judge in one municipality and a prosecutor in a nearby one. That seems ripe for conflicts of interest.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:15 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This article is sickening.

Christ, this is all kinds of disgusting:

"Brian Gremaud, an alderman in Vinita Park, one of the cities where Brockmeyer works as prosecuting attorney, said the Department of Justice report 'all seems a little overblown.'

'We are taking too much power away from the police and courts if we criticize what they are doing to keep us safe,” he said. “They are just doing their jobs. I don’t think our courts are strong enough.'"

Those are actual words that came out of that dude's mouth, representing beliefs he actually has. He's not a functionary in some dystopian YA novel, just some one-dimensional bad guy whose only role is to catch a serious case of foot-to-the-butt from the protagonists on their way to the main villain. No, he -- and all of the rest of the people named in that report, people who will suffer only the mildest of consequences for their actions -- exists in our world and wields influence. What the hell?
posted by lord_wolf at 8:37 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


THE CLEANSING BEGINS!
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:26 PM on March 6, 2015




Awful. I mean, the whole thing is awful, but that a sitting judge wouldn't be paying their taxes is a particularly galling & gross cherry on top of this poop sundae.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:35 PM on March 6, 2015


Taxes are for little people.
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm glad the Ferguson PD managed to find the only three people responsible for the department's culture of bigotry, and wouldn't ya know, it turns out it was three low-level employees sending racist emails that caused the whole thing!
posted by tonycpsu at 12:39 PM on March 6, 2015


Honestly multiple firings two days after the DOJ report came out is pretty good. We don't know if it was low-level employees or not, we don't know if they'll keep going higher. It's only a start, but it's a start.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:47 PM on March 6, 2015


Oh come on, it's not being portrayed as the cause.

I'm still waiting to hear about what is going to happen with the city manager. Ferguson is a weak-mayor city, Knowles basically zero power, and John Shaw was appointed by the city council. The longer those people (along with the police chief) stay out of this spotlight, the less change will happen from a strong signal not getting sent.

I imagine Judge Brockmeyer will be the next bone thrown, but these individuals don't speak to the culture, they're the symptoms.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 PM on March 6, 2015


Anyone dumb enough to leave a paper trail is toast, but that's going to be essentially random and not address any real issues. I suspect anyone at odds with the current power structure will be swept up in the purge, so things might actually end up in worse shape.
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2015


Yeah, and the first people purged will be those who don't have any dirt on the higher-ups.
posted by rhizome at 2:36 PM on March 6, 2015


A captain and a sergeant go down. Jackson is probably in constant meetings trying to figure out how to stay on until dissolution, which I wouldn't be surprised if it has severance perks from the union and/or contract. I mean, if dissolution is an option, there's no way survival involves his continued employment.
posted by rhizome at 4:26 PM on March 6, 2015


Their departures came as Eric Holder, the US attorney general, said he was prepared to demand the dismantling of Ferguson’s entire police department if required for reforms ordered by his department this week in a scathing report on the city’s criminal justice system.

Speaking to a pool reporter at Andrews air force base in Maryland on Friday, Holder said an “entirely new structure” was needed in Ferguson. Asked whether that included closing the police force, he said: “If that’s what’s necessary, we’re prepared to do that.”

posted by Going To Maine at 4:30 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


105 pages, so not a super long read.

But super depressing and rage-inducing.
posted by Fizz at 4:52 PM on March 6, 2015


From Coates in the Atlantic: The Gangsters of Ferguson
One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but "discriminatory intent”—that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of "racism without racists," but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it.

The emails including "jokes" depicting President Obama as a chimp, mocking how black people talk ("I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment!"), depicting blacks as criminals, welfare recipients, unemployed, lazy, and having "no frigging clue who their Daddies are.” This humor—given the imprimatur of government email—resulted in neither reprimand, nor protest, nor even a polite request to refrain from reoffending. "Instead," according to the report, "the emails were usually forwarded along to others."
Also on his Twitter:
Coates: "Ferguson Police Report is a record of plunder made legal. In other words, it fits right in with the history of this country."

Coates: "Important to understand Ferguson Report not as an aberration, but how white supremacy actually works."

WaPo: Ferguson’s government was run like a racket
posted by standardasparagus at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dear Pulitzer Committee:

TA. NEHISI. COATES. HOW FUCKING DIFFICULT IS THAT TO REMEMBER?
posted by Etrigan at 5:07 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Or perhaps, in the footsteps of (The Wire's) David Simon, a MacArthur Fellow?
posted by standardasparagus at 5:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Finally got around to skimming through the report, and this is the thing that has gotten me from the beginning:
[...]Wilson fired three gunshot volleys, pausing in between each one. According to the autopsy results, Wilson shot and hit Brown as few as six or as many as eight times, including the gunshot to Brown’s hand. Brown fell to the ground dead as a result of a gunshot to the apex of his head.
That final shot is elsewhere referred to as "the fatal shot to the top of Brown’s head."

I don't get why it's so clear cut that the final shot wasn't an unreasonable use of force. If you take away all the other details you just have two guys facing off against each other, one armed and trained professionally to use firearms and the other one unarmed; and at the end the armed guy supposedly acting in self-defense is looking at his opponent, his attacker even, who has been shot five to seven times already and is at this point somehow arranged in a posture so that the top of his head is facing the armed guy.

What this seems to be saying is that a perfectly calm, cool, and collected person in this situation would be taking a justified and reasonable action to then shoot his attacker in the head, as a necessity to ensure his own safety. But that just doesn't make sense to me.

I could see saying that all the shots in the three paused-between volleys besides the fatal one being reasonable, and then some mitigating heat-of-battle or excessive fear argument made to cover finishing everything up with a head shot. But I haven't seen this question raised yet, of why Wilson couldn't have defended himself by non-lethally shooting Brown, or at least why it is that going beyond that point still counts as reasonable.
posted by XMLicious at 5:26 PM on March 6, 2015


Because there's no such thing as a simultaneously justified non-lethal shooting but unjustified lethal shooting. Either shooting is justified or it isn't; whether the target of that shooting died or not as a result doesn't affect whether it was justified.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on March 6, 2015


To put it another way; any time a police officer fires his weapon it is deadly force and only justified when deadly force is justified. Whether or not anyone actually dies does not change the fact that the officer was using deadly force.
posted by Justinian at 6:21 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


But that doesn't mean that Wilson could have fired all the shots up to the penultimate one, walked away leaving Brown on the ground while Wilson washed the blood off his hands and got a cup of coffee, and then come back and shot Brown in the head half an hour later, does it? Surely there can be a justified non-lethal shooting followed by a non-simultaneous unjustified lethal shooting?

Or, if he had shot Brown a hundred times in a row, long past the point when Brown was obviously dead, does it ever get to a point where the continuing shots become unreasonable because it unequivocally doesn't have anything to do with self-defense?

I'm genuinely curious and I appreciate the insight of someone with legal knowledge.
posted by XMLicious at 7:27 PM on March 6, 2015


Well, yes, but whether or not Brown was killed isn't what makes the last shot or shots unjustified in that case. So you can't just say that the last shot to Brown's head was unjustified because Brown died, you have to show that the use of force itself was unjustified.
posted by Justinian at 2:16 PM on March 7, 2015


(As in, Brown was standing with his hands up or was trying to surrender or the like. The mere fact that he was shot in the head isn't evidence of anything either way, Wilson was almost certainly simply aiming center of mass.)
posted by Justinian at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2015


Part of my idea was that one case in which the top of the head would be the center of mass in profile is when it's someone who is lying on the ground with their head towards you. Though I can see that I may be misunderstanding the described trajectory of the bullet or there may be other postures of equal likelihood that would present the same profile to a shooter.

I don't want to drag this out so just one more hypothetical question if it isn't too much trouble, based on the understanding from your last two responses: if there were clear close-in video footage of the encounter which showed that the final pause-and-shot had involved Brown lying face-down on the ground and motionless at that point, Wilson then relaxing his stance and pausing, then once again taking aim and firing, would that be enough to allow an attorney to argue for legally differentiating between the final shot and the previous ones? In that case could it be construed as a separate instance of the use of force that could have different criteria for justification?

Not that I think that's what happened, or think that the final volley consisted of that single shot, or anything like that, I'm just trying to understand which would be the discriminating details if we knew with certainty what actually happened. And thanks again.
posted by XMLicious at 3:03 PM on March 7, 2015


Of course. Killing a guy who is lying prone and motionless on the ground is murder, plain and simple. I have no confidence a cop would be convicted of it even with clear video because, insanely, cops hardly ever get convicted of shooting people even with clear evidence, but it's still murder.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else struggling with the idea that they were off and egregious in their assessment of Wilson's guilt? It's been in my mind these past few days. I was really pretty convinced that this killing was unjustified legally and otherwise. I haven't read the report on Wilson yet, but apparently it paints a convincing, detailed picture that this was justified given all the evidence and testimony in existence, and it sounds like Wilson's account was more or less true. I don't know, I'm a bit haunted and I thought I'd at least be honest about it. (Not that anyone's being dishonest, at all!)
posted by naju at 4:33 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Naju, I wouldn't feel haunted; you made the best judgment you could based on the evidence you knew about. And now that there is additional evidence you're re-evaluating your view. You should feel good about that. Plenty of people reject evidence when they are invested in believing the opposite. As evidenced even in this thread where a bunch of people reject the DOJ's findings and re-affirm their faith in Wilson being a flat-out murderer.

FWIW, for those who have not read the report here are a few of the key findings, many of which contradict people's beliefs about what occurred:
The dispatch recordings and Wilson’s radio transmissions establish that Wilson was aware of the theft and had a description of the suspects as he encountered Brown and Witness 101.
...
Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm. While there are other individuals who stated that Wilson reached out of the SUV and grabbed Brown by the neck, prosecutors could not credit their accounts because they were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence, as detailed throughout this report.
...
Autopsy result s and bullet trajectory, skin from Brown’s palm on the out side of the SUV door as well as Brown’s DNA on the inside of the driver’s door corroborate Wilson’s account that during the struggle, Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson’s gun.
...
However, as detailed later in this report, there are no witness accounts that could be relied upon in a prosecution to prove that Wilson shot at Brown as he was running away. Witnesses who say so cannot be relied upon in a prosecution because they
have given accounts that are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence or are significantly inconsistent with their own prior statements made throughout the investigation.
...
Brown then turned around and came back toward Wilson, falling to his death approximately 21.6 feet west of the blood in the roadway. Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts. As detailed throughout this report, several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson. According to these witnesses, who are corroborated by blood evidence in the roadway, as Brown continued to move toward Wilson, Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to the ground.
There's a lot more detail later but this should be enough to show that, contrary to what I initially believed based on the top-line summary, the report isn't simply stating that Wilson can't be prosecuted but that his account is likely more or less truthful.
posted by Justinian at 5:03 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


It should be pointed out, though, that many people were predisposed to believe the worst about the Ferguson police department because they make it so easy by being a bunch of racist thugs extorting the population for monetary gain, as detailed in the other DOJ report. But that's not a reason to reject actual evidence.
posted by Justinian at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Even apart from any racism, they were also refusing to give up to the ACLU and reporters documents that state law required them to, right? While at the same happily releasing video footage trying to bias the public against Brown.

I feel like I was always ready to accept the possibility Wilson behaved within the bounds of proper police conduct, but that guilty or no the police department shouldn't have been allowed to get away with that shit or the response to peaceful assembly during the protests.

And of course this doesn't all mean that Brown would have suffered the same fate if he'd been white—being immersed in a thoroughly racist
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The question of whether Wilson murdered Brown is important, but it's the most remote possibility out of the whole array of possible criticisms that could be made of Wilson's conduct. The consequence of framing the debate as being about murder has made Wilson effectively immune to lesser charges, which are relatively trivial and may be seen as persecutory.

Gamblers know this strategy well: if you can't afford a small loss, make your opponent fight for a big one. Raise the stakes; they might drop out. Dangle the potential of a big win before them and they may abandon the tactics that would lead them to a smaller but more secure victory.

I see this in online arguments all the time, particularly when it comes to allegations of bias. If someone says that a program is effectively racist, the demand is that they show that a particular action was racist. If they do show that the action was racist, they're asked to show that the person who committed it was racist. And so on, and so forth, until they're committed to showing that there was a racist conspiracy at the highest level, devoted to oppressing minorities.

Which might (and actually has been) the case, but it's harder to prove and it sounds hysterical, and it's miles removed from the actual incident. So even if you do show that the government is racist, you're no closer to prosecuting Officer Wilson - in fact you're further away from it, because your target is broader and you've been ignoring the facts at hand and why are you focusing on this one guy when the government is corrupt?

So yes, the question of murder is important, but it drowned out the question of whether Wilson should have intervened; whether he was right to intervene in that way; whether he should have called for backup; whether his associates tried to cover up the details of the event. Murder by a police officer is always hard to prosecute, but it's so shocking that it drowned out the other questions that should, in my opinion, have ended Wilson's career.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:53 PM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


His career was ended, wasn't it? He'll never work in law enforcement again.
posted by Justinian at 11:11 PM on March 8, 2015


It would be nice to think so.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:13 AM on March 9, 2015


The consequence of framing the debate as being about murder has made Wilson effectively immune to lesser charges, which are relatively trivial and may be seen as persecutory

That is probably true, but it's absurd to imply that this was some kind of deliberate strategy employed by Wilson and/or the Ferguson police department. The entire controversy was centered, from the beginning, on the insistence by protestors that Brown had been cold-bloodedly murdered when patiently surrendering. If you look at the earlier threads on this issue here on Metafilter you'll see that anyone daring to even raise the possibility that this was a pretty implausible scenario would get shouted down immediately as a racist police apologist.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Count me in the group of people honestly shocked by the report on Wilson. Part of it is based on the information available to the public before this, and on the evident intent to obfusciate on the part of the prosecutors office, but a lot of my opinion was based on the staggeringly fucked up response of the Ferguson PD to both the incident itself and the fallout. They acted like incompetent - or at least unprofessional - chuckleheads. I think if they'd, for instance, managed to investigate it like an actual crime scene and produce a timely incident report that wasn't written in crayon on the back of a waffle-house placemat, the response (from me if not from many others) would've been very different.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


If you look at the earlier threads on this issue here on Metafilter you'll see that anyone daring to even raise the possibility that this was a pretty implausible scenario would get shouted down immediately as a racist police apologist.

I'm not about to relitigate those threads, but this representation of them verges on strawman fantasy, and the general tenor of them I think is borne out of the Underpants Gnome investigation that the authorities conducted, and I think the feelings underlying the protests are validated by the larger report on departmental patterns and practices.

That's the pie, here: on one hand we have, "See? Proof Wilson wasn't an off-duty KKK lookin' for a gunbelt notch." and on the other hand we have pretty solid proof he didn't have to be for a black man to suffer a back-alley death penalty for behavior not-that-serious.
posted by rhizome at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I do not (and never did) think Wilson's attitude was a conscious "I'm gonna shoot a black kid today." I consider this an unjustified killing (in my personal ethos, not according to any particular law) because it was unnecessary. It was avoidable. It didn't need to happen. Wilson should have been carrying less lethal means like a taser, for example. I continue to think Wilson's unconscious bias about and fear of black men from living his life in a structurally and culturally racist society motivated his choices on that day - including his decision that the situation threatened his life.
posted by sallybrown at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


So yes, the question of murder is important, but it drowned out the question of whether Wilson should have intervened; whether he was right to intervene in that way; whether he should have called for backup; whether his associates tried to cover up the details of the event. Murder by a police officer is always hard to prosecute, but it's so shocking that it drowned out the other questions that should, in my opinion, have ended Wilson's career.

Ironically, without the murder charge and the corresponding protests, you wouldn't have ever had the DOJ step up to make this kind of investigation. The big (incorrect) charge has uncovered everything else.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:56 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not about to relitigate those threads, but this representation of them verges on strawman fantasy

The "verges" in that sentence is telling.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:57 PM on March 9, 2015


I think both of you guys are mostly correct; it's obvious that the racism and general awfulness of the Ferguson PD (and undoubtedly other PDs around the country) are the most important part of the story and that it primed the pump for people to disbelieve Wilson.

But it's also true that some people on Metafilter and elsewhere really did behave as though anyone who wasn't sufficiently anti-Wilson was at best a useful idiot for racist thugs. At best.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on March 9, 2015


The details of Wilson's story, even if believed, had so much latent racism too. I mean, he was describing a menacing, hulking beast, charging at a police officer apropos of nothing, undeterred by guns or anything else. And this wasn't a frothing person on PCP, it was just a kid who had smoked some weed. If you want to talk about plausibility, I certainly still wouldn't put my money on Wilson's story.
posted by naju at 4:12 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Brockmeyer has resigned as judge (from Ferguson only), and even more interestingly, the Missouri Supreme Court is handing over control of the Ferguson municipal court system to a Court of Appeals judge, specifically mentioning the rights of defendants in the order.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:35 PM on March 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you want to talk about plausibility, I certainly still wouldn't put my money on Wilson's story.

We no longer need to talk about plausibility. We have the DOJ report talking about what it appears actually happened.
posted by Justinian at 5:25 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see what you mean. Disregard that, I wasn't reading your comment properly.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on March 9, 2015


Brockmeyer kicked out of Dellwood, too.

Something tells me he's getting fired for doing what he was told to do, though. Good riddance anyway.
posted by rhizome at 9:11 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ferguson City Manager John Snow resigns.

No word on public corruption charges, but it seems apparent that the thought has crossed his mind:
“And while I certainly respect the work that the D.O.J. recently performed in their investigation and report on the City of Ferguson, I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the Police Department to target African-Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor,” he wrote.
posted by rhizome at 6:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


That still leaves A LOT of room for him to be guilty guilty guilty. How about NOT DOING ANYTHING TO STOP IT, asshole?
posted by IAmBroom at 6:47 PM on March 10, 2015


rhizome: omething tells me he's getting fired for doing what he was told to do, though.
He's a judge, not a ten year old.

He needs jailtime. Won't get any, but it would be fair.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2015


“And while I certainly respect the work that the D.O.J. recently performed in their investigation and report on the City of Ferguson, I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the Police Department to target African-Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor,” he wrote.

You know nothing, John Snow!
posted by Going To Maine at 7:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know what I was thinking, but of course his name is actually John Shaw.
posted by rhizome at 2:39 AM on March 11, 2015


This is what happens when you try to make a Shaw man argument.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]




Roll on the FOX money.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on March 11, 2015


There's been some fun going on with #ChiefJacksonHighlights.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:39 PM on March 11, 2015


Two officers have been shot at a protest in Ferguson. No word on condition yet but reports are at least one was hurt badly.
posted by Justinian at 11:56 PM on March 11, 2015


One was shot in the shoulder and the other in the face according to CNN but both are currently expected to survive.
posted by Justinian at 11:58 PM on March 11, 2015


@passantino: Ferguson shooting captured on video tonight by live streamer (beginning at 0:40) http://t.co/XVoaV1qOzU@MissJupiter1957— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) March 12, 2015


Things are going to get worse.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:09 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


“Two police officers shot during protests in Ferguson,” Matt Pearce, The Los Angeles Times, 11 March 2015
Mike Kinman, 46, an episcopal priest at Christ Church Cathedral, had just arrived at the protest scene five minutes before the shots rang out.

"It was really pretty mellow at that point," Kinman said of the protest. He has been an active participant in the demonstrations since August.

Demonstrators were "standing around talking" in the parking lots near a nearby tire store when four or five shots "in rapid succession" sent the protestors and officers ducking for cover, he said.

"A bunch of officers went down to the ground, and there was one that just didn't move," Kinman said.

Kinman said "the shots definitely came up from behind us, up the street. It definitely did not come from the protestors."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:10 AM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most news reports I'm coming across are emphasizing that both wounded officers are conscious, so hopefully even the person shot in the face wasn't hurt too badly.
posted by XMLicious at 2:26 AM on March 12, 2015


They're even saying both officers have been released from the hospital! Must have been relatively superficial wounds. A face wound would bleed a LOT even from a relatively minor wound which is probably why the initial reports thought it was so serious. Plus, you know, because it was in the face.
posted by Justinian at 10:36 AM on March 12, 2015


Meanwhile, even though there hasn't been a suspect identified in the shooting, Rudy Giuliani is citing it as an example of runaway black violence, overlooked by a black president who hates America... oh... and he wishes President Obama were more like Bill Cosby.
posted by markkraft at 3:16 PM on March 12, 2015


Everybody is going to jump on this as a reason to keep the police department around. I suspect a false flag operation, but I'm like that.
posted by rhizome at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty ballsy to use live ammo if so. My money is on anarchist dumbasses (possibly egged on by police).
posted by Artw at 8:45 PM on March 12, 2015


"and he wishes President Obama were more like Bill Cosby."

Holy fucking shit. If that doesn't being us right the way back around to why Hannibal Buress brought it up in the first place...

Um, does conservative America know about all that? It's been on Fox, right?
posted by Artw at 8:47 PM on March 12, 2015


Um, does conservative America know about all that? It's been on Fox, right?

Yes, they think Cosby's being slandered for being too pro-white.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:55 PM on March 12, 2015


Um, does conservative America know about all that? It's been on Fox, right?

Yes, Giuliani is aware of the rape things; he isn't so much talking about the real Bill Cosby but rather the notional Bill Cosby that once was. (This is probably not better, especially since he seems to not understand the timeline of events.) The exact quote is: “I hate to mention it because of what happened afterwards, but [Obama should be saying] the kinds of stuff Bill Cosby used to say.”
posted by Going To Maine at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2015


Still wowed by this.
posted by Artw at 9:21 PM on March 12, 2015


Recent events in Ferguson have made me realize that I contain multitudes. Because my first thought upon learning that 2 police officers had been shot was "I hope they catch whoever did it and beat his ass to the ground." Which is the kind of attitude that got us here in the first place. Calmer reflection later on helped me realize that one of the most powerful -- and necessary -- things a human can do is to forgive someone.

That said, I still think of Officer Wilson as a killer, even though I understand there's a lack of evidence to qualify him for that designation legally. As much as the justice system and the media wanted to impugn Mike Brown's character and hold him responsible for what happened, I think the events of that day hinge on Wilson being the one who made the more relevant series of poor choices, and, yeah, the cultural belief that large black men are a critical threat to white people's lives even when they're unarmed played a large part in his decision making process...and the jury's and many other people's as well. But I still hope I can come to a place where I can forgive him...and McCullough. Not there yet though.

I'm stunned to see some seemingly positive changes in the wake of the DOJ report, and I'm trying hard to see it as the beginning of a sweeping wave of reform. I fear though that the people who have resigned or been fired will simply resurface elsewhere and that the changes will be short-lived. As the farmer in the Zen story says, we'll see.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:58 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well Jeff Roorda is certainly taking the opportunity to steal thunder, so I'll bet a donut we've seen all the change in the Ferguson PD and government that we're going to see.
posted by rhizome at 9:18 AM on March 13, 2015


I'm trilled with so many positive developments. :) All the discussion claims the shots came from a hill some distance away, and the frequency of shots confirms this, rhizome. Yes, it's likely a racist redneck with a rifle, which counts as a "false flag operation", just like the anthrax attacks were. It'll be funny if they catch the shooter and that's the case.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:58 AM on March 15, 2015






Holy shit, the "unrelated dispute" defence?
posted by Artw at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2015


Artw: “Holy shit, the "unrelated dispute" defence?”
Williams says someone who was there robbed him.

“Ferguson activists say suspect in police shootings was not a protester,” Matt Pearce, The Los Angeles Times, 15 March 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2015


Seeing the guys picture in thinking that defense might not work out so well for him as it might for "parking dispute" guy.
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on March 15, 2015


Capehart said this is the hardest piece he's ever had to write:

“‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie,” Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post, 16 March 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 1:00 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meh, people with their hands up get shot by cops frequently enough, maybe the specific incident isn't optimal, but the message works perfectly.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2015


Meh, people with their hands up get shot by cops frequently enough, maybe the specific incident isn't optimal, but the message works perfectly.

It's not that the specific incident isn't "optimal". It's that the specific incident is certified J-for-justified. Which again, doesn't negate the rest of the report, but "meh" is a hell of a blasé attitude towards the truth.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:26 PM on March 16, 2015


It's not just "meh", unfortunately. It was a pattern of awfulness directed at anyone who didn't immediately accept Dorian Johnson's false narrative as the truth. I don't mean by the protesters. They were legitimately angry about longstanding mistreatment by a thuggish police department. I mean by the outside commentariat, here on Metafilter and other forums. Trying to get to the truth is not being a stooge and I don't think we should stand for people acting as though it is any longer.
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2015


That pattern of awfulness probably had something to do with the many people who were busy denying the truth of Johnson's account while also denying the idea of systemic racism in Ferguson and the idea of systemic racism in general. I would regard that behavior as part of another pattern of awfulness, personally.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You and I obviously have very different memories about the Ferguson threads then, 'cause I don't remember much of anyone denying that system racism is a big problem.
posted by Justinian at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2015


and other forums
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:42 PM on March 16, 2015


Oh yeah, that definitely happened in many places. Sorry. REDDITCOUGH
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2015


And every newspaper in the country.
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2015


I'm grateful for that Capehart piece. I wish more people were being honest about confronting this, and sorting out where we stand when the dust clears.
posted by naju at 4:01 PM on March 16, 2015


REDDITCOUGH

Man, I was all thinking that reddit's badness on this was overrated, and then I checked r/ferguson. Do NOT do that.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2015


Listen to the man, he knows of what he speaks.
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2015


Trying to get to the truth is not being a stooge and I don't think we should stand for people acting as though it is any longer.

I get what you're saying and I agree with the first clause in your sentence, but who are the "we" who are standing for people acting as though seeking the truth makes you a stooge -- that is, not one or two posters, but enough people to characterize entire threads that way??

I don't have time to go back and re-read every Ferguson thread, but I recall plenty of people updating their reactions and beliefs as more information came to light. I remember a lot of frustration with the Ferguson and StL PD being extremely stingy and coldly calculating with what they released, always free and quick to release info that made Brown and Johnson look bad but using plenty of misdirection and dragfooting when releasing anything that didn't paint Wilson in a positive light.

I've scanned through a few of the longer threads just now, and I just don't see widespread accusations of people being stooges for arguing that it's important to get to the truth of the matter. I mostly see laments, despair, and frustration. Same as in the previous threads about police killing unarmed black men, same as will be in the next dozen threads about police killing unarmed black men.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:38 PM on March 17, 2015


I think it was more common than you think it was and even if I'm wrong it doesn't have to be hugely widespread to be a problem. That said, re-litigating past threads is pointless. If it's an issue in the future it can go to Metatalk and if it's not an issue in the future then it isn't an issue.
posted by Justinian at 1:50 PM on March 17, 2015


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