I know most people aren’t interested in reading U.S. Justice Department reports, but this one was a damning indictment of the Ferguson Police Department and how cop shops like them wage war against the Black citizens they are supposed to protect.
Particularly, in their attempts at what passes as “humor” by the cops.
We have discovered evidence of racial bias in emails sent by Ferguson officials, all of whom are current employees, almost without exception through their official City of Ferguson email accounts, and apparently sent during work hours. These email exchanges involved several police and court supervisors, including FPD supervisors and commanders. The following emails are illustrative:
- A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
- A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
- A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from.The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
- A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
- An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
- A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias, as well as other forms of bias. Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.
We did find one instance in 2012 in which the City Manager forwarded an email that played upon stereotypes of Latinos, but within minutes of sending it, sent another email to the recipient in which he stated he had not seen the offensive part of the email and apologized for the “inappropriate and offensive” message. Police and court staff took no such corrective action, and indeed in many instances expressed amusement at the offensive correspondence.
Critically, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of FPD’s patrol and court operations. 5 FPD patrol supervisors are responsible for holding officers accountable to governing laws, including the Constitution, and helping to ensure that officers treat all people equally under the law, regardless of race or any other protected characteristic. The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers. (emphasis added)
This isn’t a matter of “a few bad cops.” These were supervisors and in positions of authority. It speaks volumes on why in Ferguson the police are seen not as protectors, but overseers.
The mayor hasn’t resigned, the police chief hasn’t been fired and the City Council hasn’t quit en masse. The whole corrupt, dirty, rotten racist status quo remains firmly in place and the whole damn system is guilty.
Not only did police stop blacks at a rate greater than their share of the population—from 2012 to 2014, blacks were 67 percent of Ferguson residents but 85 percent of traffic stops—but they were twice as likely to search blacks than they were whites, who were 26 percent more likely to have actual contraband.
You see the same dynamic with small, discretionary infractions. Ninety-five percent of tickets for jaywalking were against black residents, as were 94 percent of all “failure to comply” charges. Either black people were the only Ferguson citizens to jaywalk, or the department was targeting blacks for enforcement. On the rare occasion when police charged whites with these minor offenses, they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed. And because supervisors awarded promotions on the basis of officer “productivity,” there was little incentive to stop any of this behavior.
The most disturbing statistics are with regard to arrest, incarceration, and police force. Ninety-three percent of all arrests in Ferguson were of black Americans, and 88 percent of use-of-force incidents were against them. In cases where police had warrants, 92 percent were for blacks. Of those arrested for outstanding warrants, 96 percent were black, and among people jailed for more than two days, 95 percent were black. And in a terrible callback to Jim Crow, police used canines exclusively against black residents, including a 14-year-old boy who suffered puncture wounds in his arms, hands, and legs.
Who let the dogs out? Fifty years have passed since the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the only thing that has changed are the names and details. Good-bye, Selma, Hello, Ferguson. The entrenched institutional racism of the police hasn’t taken a backward step.
It’s time we stopped asking, “Why do good cops stand up for bad cops?” The answer is irrelevant. Cops cover for cops. Darren Wilson wasn’t the lone good cop in a bad police department. He merely happened to be the one who killed Mike Brown. If you work in an evil place and you remain silent and passive about evil, you can’t claim to be good. If the culture of policing encourages passivity and conformity among its members and enforces a code of compliance and silence as it closes ranks among its worst members, that is a culture ripe to be changed.
Good cop? Bad cop? Doesn’t matter. If the good cop won’t stand up against the bad cop they’re the same cop.