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‘The Ferguson Report’ Offers A Damning Indictment

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‘The Ferguson Report’ Offers A Damning Indictment

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By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate: Last week, barely five days after Dylann Storm Roof allegedly killed nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Justice Department’s The Ferguson Report (New Press; 174 pages, $20 paper), first made public in March, came out in book form.

What do these events have in common? Nothing, and everything. One is an act of domestic terror, the other an account of what appears to be a long-standing pattern of discrimination by the Ferguson, Mo., police department. But what they really trace is a kind of through line, in which we are reminded, again, how deeply disrupted our supposedly “post-racial” society is over the question of race.

“One of the hallmarks of American racism has been the devaluation of black lives,” writes Theodore M. Shaw, former director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in his introduction to “The Ferguson Report.” “… Ferguson puts the lie to twenty-first century America’s claim of post-racialism.”

That’s not new information. Ferguson, after all — like Charleston — is part of a continuum. “Black lives matter,” Shaw observes. “Yet even after Ferguson, unarmed black men continue to die at the hands of police.”

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray: This is just a sampling from the last 12 months.

Still, The Ferguson Report is especially damning, for it reveals an institutional culture that targets African Americans. From the report: “Nearly 90% of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African Americans. In every canine bite incident for which racial information is available, the person bitten was African American.”

And this: “We have found substantial evidence of racial bias among police and court staff in Ferguson. For example, we discovered emails circulated by police supervisors and court staff that stereotype racial minorities as criminals, inkling one email that joked about an abortion by an African-American woman being a means of crime control.”

Abortion as a form of crime control? If a single image can encapsulate an entire story, this one does.

Part of the problem is that Ferguson’s policing has been corrupted by a civic culture that values revenue generation over public safety. According to the report, “City and police leadership pressure officers to write citations, independent of any public safety need, and rely on citation productivity to fund the City budget.” As a consequence, “[o]fficers sometimes write six, eight, or, in at least one instance, fourteen citations for a single encounter. Indeed, officers told us that some compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop.”

It is not the job of the police to serve the citizens, in other words, but to shake them down.

To be fair, this is not overtly a racial issue, but a social one. The insistence on maximizing income closely mirrors America’s corporate culture, in which growth trumps all concerns and workers are expected to produce more and more by executives who see employees and customers alike as commodities.

In a community, though, such as Ferguson — where an African American majority is policed by a largely white constabulary — race can’t help but be a dominating force. “Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014,” the report explains, “shows that African Americans account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson’s population.”

I could go on, but it’s too depressing — or perhaps not depressing enough. By that, I mean that even in light of all this data, change is not assured.

The Justice Department, for instance — even as it issued this report — did not bring federal charges against police officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson. When officials such as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio have spoken out on police violence, they’ve been accused of not having their officers’ backs.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, debate is amping up again over the Confederate flag that flies at the state capital. Finally, I want to say, although this is about 150 years overdue. And yet, it seems to fit a pattern: Something happens, and we talk about it for a while, then forget until it happens again.

And happen again, it will. If The Ferguson Report has anything to tell us, it is that. It is a chilling, disturbing account of police dysfunction, but even more of social dysfunction, of the lies we tell ourselves.

In Ferguson, the report reveals, officials argue “that it is a lack of ‘personal responsibility’ among African-American members of the Ferguson community that causes African Americans to experience disproportionate harm under Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement.” These same officials, the report continues, routinely fix tickets for one another, as if the law did not apply to them.

Personal responsibility. I believe in it. As I believe that the law is a two-way street. The Ferguson Report, however, insists otherwise, reminding us in the clear, concise language of an affidavit, how far we have to go.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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12 Comments

  1. ridemybroom July 5, 2015

    The confederate flag had nothing to do at what happened here in Chareston….i have no sympathy for anyone who sees it for anything else other than heritage

    Reply
    1. jtxl July 5, 2015

      so exactly what is different about burning the American flag while waving a confederate flag when compared with alqaeda and isis burning an American flag while waving their own flag? when your racist mass murderer posted his pictures and looked at these people he gunned down in the eyes as he told them he was killing them for raping white women and taking over the country. It wasn’t just about what the flag represents but also about killing democrats for electing a black president and congressmen and senators. His exact words was that he wanted to start a race war. He wasn’t waving a flag with cartoon characters or flowers or puppies. He was waving the flag that represents what he did.

  2. ridemybroom July 5, 2015

    it is heritage to the blacks and whites of the South….If black America cant see that then there is something wrong with their education…many good men and women…black and white fought for what was to be their country under that battle flag…it signifies strength and courage for all those that fought to make the South free…and let us not forget that the black slaves were freed so they could fight or otherwise walk away…most chose to stay…yes the South did free their slaves before anyone could have freed them…in fact Abe Lincoln didnt free any slaves from the North til much later and even warned them if they ranaway or tried to escape they would be whipped and severly punished by their masters and for their actions some were hung right in the city of new York…that flag represents alot of lives lost under it but none like the American flag presents today…so if you want to discuss which flag was on slave ships…how about looking at the stars and stripes…that flag was displayed on all slave ships going to an coming from a
    Africa…want to take a flag down…….stars and stipes should be the flag to come down….and another to come down should be the NAACP Org…..it is the most racist hate group in America today….they are comparable in my book to the Hate that ISIS spreads….in fact put ISIS and the NAACP together you wouldnt tell them apart cause they stand for the same principles….which is ….”LET’S KILL WHITEY”…that is their motto and they are doing it quietly in halls and building while you sleep at night…….put the racisn where it belongs …not where it doesnt belong….so get your history of the South and the Flag together….you may just educate yourself on something you knew nothing about….

    Reply
    1. Paragryne July 5, 2015

      You first.

    2. jtxl July 5, 2015

      you don’t have a clue.Obviously you were raised by hateful racists. Nobody chooses slavery. The freed slaves were not educated and all they knew was the whip and being raped. Some were paid small amounts and some worked for a share of the crops. They completely understood that free did not mean safe. The confederate battle flag is a flag of treason. It represents fighting and dying to become a separate country where keeping humans as pets was the law. Well less than pets because the evil of the south treated their animals better than their slave pets. The descendants of confederate soldiers should be ashamed instead of proud. They should be teaching their children that the confederacy was a tragic part of history and an example of how evil takes hold through greed. It is no different than Charles Manson’s descendants celebrating his crimes.

      1. InformedVoter July 5, 2015

        You obviously don’t know true history. When the 13 colonies formed the United States, the colonies were guaranteed that if the union was not to their liking, they had the right to withdraw from the union. How can exercising their guaranteed right be called treason? Lincoln broke many laws during the Civil War. Had he not been assassinated, he would have been impeached. Do you know the history of Arlington National Cemetery and ultimately the Supreme Court decision about it?

        1. JPHALL July 5, 2015

          You mistake the Articles of Confederation for the U.S Constitution. Confederation did not work so they wrote and ratified the Constitution. Read a real history book instead of a revisionist and apologetic version of the Civil War. How sad you are!

          1. 1standlastword July 7, 2015

            Passionate ignorance makes fools of arrogant people.

            Thank you for disabusing and properly educating our misinformed InformedVoter who is now better informed of post colonial American history

          2. JPHALL July 7, 2015

            No problem. He was just another right winger passing on the ignorance he learned on Faux News cable..
            Subject: Re: Comment on ‘ The Ferguson Report’ Offers A Damning Indictment

  3. ridemybroom July 5, 2015

    JTXL….do us all a favor….go take your meds and calm down…then read up on the confederate flag…get off the ebonics…..dont let your parents know how you wasted their money on a racist education…..keep supporting racist abe lincoln and ur NAACP who by the way still calls you colored people…lol…..not only calls you colored but afro as well and you aint even africian….even the afrikkans dont like american blacks….just your money….

    Reply
  4. ridemybroom July 5, 2015

    JTXL…i didnt know he was waving a flag in the church…….you so informed….damn where did i miss that at ….waving a flag and shooting at people….maybe that is why he had to reload so much….ya think ?….how do you know this….were you there….sure it wasnt a cartoon flag….you definitely need your meds..get back on them…

    Reply
  5. vonlmo July 5, 2015

    Substitute “Palestinian” in place of “black” or “afro-american”. Does it pass the fit test?
    Sho nuff.

    Reply

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