Ferguson: Specific Incidents From Justice Department’s Report
by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)
ST. LOUIS — The Justice Department released a 102-page report describing its finding that the Ferguson Police Department abused its authority and unfairly targeted African-Americans. The report included specific incidents, based either on official police reports or individual interviews:
• In 2013, police were headed toward an apartment to make an arrest and came upon a black man in a car in the parking lot. They knew the man was not the person they were seeking, but they handcuffed him, put him in the patrol car and ran his name. It turned out, the man was the landlord of the person who was sought. Police defended the action even though they had no reason to hold the man.
• In 2012, police pulled over a black man and said his brake light was out. But the man had recently replaced the light and knew it was working. When the man wanted to show police the light was working, they ordered him not to get out of the car. He was cited.
• A black man told the DOJ he was sitting at a bus stop when a patrol car pulled up. A lieutenant rolled down the window and yelled at the man, using profanity, to come over. The officer demanded the man’s ID. The man asked, “Why, what did I do?” “Stop being a smart ass and give me your ID,” the lieutenant replied. The officer ran the man’s name, found no warrants and told the man “to get the hell out of my face.”
• In 2013, an officer approached five young African-Americans listening to music in a car. The officer said he smelled marijuana and arrested all five, even after he found no marijuana when he searched the car. The charge was disorderly conduct.
• An officer arrested two sisters in 2011 as they backed their car into their driveway. He claimed they had been idling their car in the middle of the street. One sister was arrested for not providing an ID; the other for getting out of the car when he had told her to stay inside. The sisters spent three hours in jail.
• Two men were sitting in a car on a public street when an officer demanded their IDs. One man protested and was arrested for failure to comply.
• A man was leaving the police station when officers arrived to take custody of another man wanted on a state charge. The officers stopped the man who was leaving and asked for his ID. He declined, saying he didn’t have to provide it. The man also declined to be frisked. Then, when the man offered his ID, the officers interpreted his hand movement as an assault and took him to the ground. The man was charged with two counts of failure to comply and two counts of resisting arrest.
• A business owner was arrested in 2012 for interfering with police business and abuse of 911 when she objected to her employee being detained for “walking unsafely in the street.” The owner came out three times to complain and called 911 to complain to the chief.
• A black man, 20, was stopped for dancing in the street. The officer ran the man’s names and found no warrants so he told the man he could go. The man responded with profanity. When the officer told him to watch his language, the man continued to use profanity and was arrested for “manner of walking in roadway.”
• In January 2014, police attempted to arrest a young black man for trespass, even though his girlfriend had invited him to the home of her grandparents. Seven officers struck and tased the young man.
• In a 2012 incident, Ferguson police officers responded to a fight at a local bar that involved white suspects. Officers reported encountering “40-50 people actively fighting, throwing bottles and glasses, as well as chairs.” The report noted that “one subject had his ear bitten off.” While the responding officers reported using force, they only used “minimal baton and flashlight strikes as well as fists, muscling techniques and knee strikes.” While the report states that “due to the amount of subjects fighting, no physical arrests were possible,” it notes also that four subjects were brought to the station for “safekeeping.” DOJ investigators found the handling of the incident stood “in stark contrast” to the actions officers took in similar incidents involving black suspects.
• A 16-year-old African-American, suspected in a car theft, ran. Police chased him to a vacant house where the teen hid in a closet. An officer with a dog, without warning, opened the closet door and sent the dog in. The dog bit the boy and dragged him out of the closet. Another officer tased the boy three times while the boy was struggling with the dog.
• In 2013, an officer saw an African-American man talk to another man in a truck and then walk away. The officer stopped the man and asked for his ID. The man declined to answer questions or submit to a frisk, saying he had done nothing wrong. The officer tased the man, causing him to fall to the ground. The officer then tased the man again.
• In 2014, a black couple let their young children urinate in the bushes at a park. An officer threatened to arrest the parents for allowing the children to expose themselves. He took the man into custody for parental neglect, and when the woman began videotaping the interaction the police officer yelled, “You don’t videotape me!” The officers drove away and the woman followed, continuing to tape. The officer stopped the car and arrested the woman on traffic citations. When her husband asked the officer to show mercy, the officer said he would not because the woman wanted to videotape. He took the cellphone. When it was returned, the video had been erased.
• One white individual who has lived in Ferguson for 48 years told investigators that it feels like Ferguson’s police and court system is “designed to bring a black man down … (there are) no second chances.” Other African-American residents told of Ferguson’s “long history of targeting blacks for harassment and degrading treatment.” An African-American minister of a church in a nearby community said he doesn’t allow his two sons to drive through Ferguson out of “fear that they will be targeted for arrest.”
• In April 2012, officers allegedly called an African-American woman a “bitch” and a “mental case” at the jail following an arrest
• In September 2012, a 28-year resident of Ferguson complained to police about a traffic stop in which a lieutenant approached in a loud and confrontational manner with his hand on his holstered gun. The resident, who had a military police background, noted that the lieutenant’s behavior, especially having his hand on his gun, ratcheted up the tension, and he questioned why the lieutenant had been so aggressive.
• In an undated incident, a woman called police 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.
• Another woman called police to report a separate 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.”
• A young African-American man was shot while walking on the road with three friends. The police department located and interviewed two of the friends about the shooting. After the interview, they arrested and jailed one of these cooperating witnesses, who was 19, on an outstanding municipal warrant.
• In May 2014, a man rushed to the scene of a car accident involving his girlfriend, who was badly injured and bleeding profusely when he arrived. He approached and tried to calm her. When officers arrived, they treated him rudely, according to the man, telling him to move away. The officers said he resisted, so they handcuffed and arrested him. Meanwhile, the accident victim remained unattended, bleeding from her injuries. Officers charged the man with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, assault on a law enforcement officer, obstructing government operations and failure to comply. His vehicle was also towed and impounded.
• In 2013, a woman sought to reach her fiance, who was in a car accident. After she refused to stay on the sidewalk as the officer ordered, she was arrested and jailed.
• Ferguson police failed to investigate allegations that an officer had kicked a man in the side of the head and stepped on his head and back while he was face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. The man said the beating did not stop until another officer on the scene said words to the effect of, “(h)ey, he’s not fighting he’s cuffed.” There was no internal affairs investigation or use-of-force report relative to the reported incident.
• An officer investigating a report of a theft at a dollar store interrogated a minister pumping gas into his church van about the theft. The minister alleged that he provided his identification to the officer and offered to return to the store to prove he was not the thief. The officer instead handcuffed him and drove him to the store. The store clerk reported that the detained man was not the thief, but the officer continued to keep the man cuffed, allegedly calling him “fg stupid” for asking to be released from the cuffs. The minister filed a complaint with Ferguson police. After an investigation the complaint was reclassified as “withdrawn” because the minister did not respond to a cellphone message left by the investigator within 13 days.
Photo: Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, pictured at far right, leaves the FBI offices in St. Louis after meeting with federal officials on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)