DOJ Report:

Damning Truth About the Ferguson Police Department

March 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Wednesday, March 4, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report on the Ferguson Police Department (FPD). Based on a six-month investigation, the 100+ page report documents how Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, are subjected to blatant racial discrimination. These criminal practices by the police, violating people’s constitutional rights, are routine and thorough, affecting “nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations.” The report also documents the thoroughly racist culture in the Ferguson Police Department as well as among city officials.

Two basic things must be said about this report:

#1: NONE of all this damning truth would be coming out from the U.S. government if it had not been for the powerful upsurge of the people, first the heroic protests in the streets of Ferguson after the police killing of Michael Brown in August 2014 and then the spreading of this spirit of rebellion against police murder around the country with tens of thousands taking to the streets in the fall and winter and into 2015, especially after grand juries refused to indict the killer cops of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

#2: The report concludes that the distrust and fear that Black people in Ferguson have for the police are well founded. This report shines a light on and exposes part of what so many people Black people live every day and already know is the truth about what the police do all the damn time.

For anybody who really steps back and looks at this whole situation, what is being unearthed and brought to public light around the police in Ferguson, is NOT an anomaly and not due to “a few bad apples” but to something deeply ingrained in the whole nature of the role of the police and the culture that goes with that. This is something that no doubt can be found in police departments all over the USA. And as has been shown time after time, in city after city, the police get away with crimes against Black people, including brutality and murder. The very day this report was released, the Department of IN-Justice announced that no civil rights charges would be brought against Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed Michael Brown.


Federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records, and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. We will have more to say about this report but here is some of what the report found:

African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, but they account for 85 percent of those subjected to traffic stops, get 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests.

The use of force by police is almost exclusively against Black people who are regularly stopped without probable cause. Nearly 90 percent of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African-Americans. In every incident where a police dog bit a person for which there was racial information available, the person bitten was Black. In 2013, one man was chased down and bitten by an officer’s dog even though the officer had frisked him and knew the man was unarmed.

A Black driver stopped by the police is twice as likely to be searched as a white driver who is stopped – even though, as the report also found, searches of white drivers are more likely to turn up drugs or other contraband.

Cops make decisions all the time about who they will and will not target, stop, harass, brutalize. It is almost certainly the case that a group of white people just standing on the corner is going to be a lot less likely considered “suspicious” by the cops than a group of young Black youth doing the same thing. The report found that such racially skewed discretion is used in even the most minor offenses like jaywalking. No doubt lots of people in Ferguson jaywalk, but Black people accounted for 95 percent of all jaywalking tickets. (People might remember that Darren Wilson said he stopped Michael Brown for “walking in the street.”) And such discretion also applied to “disturbing the peace” violations that were brought almost exclusively against Black people. Furthermore, when white people were charged with these crimes they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed.

Ferguson’s Municipal Court, run by the chief of police, is a big part of how the city raises revenue, and court officials routinely issued excessive fines and fees and violated people’s rights. Cops routinely issued multiple citations during a single stop, often for the same violation – in some cases writing six, eight, or, in at least one instance, 14 citations for a single encounter.

Talk to Black people in Ferguson and they’ll tell you how, when they are stopped, harassed, and beaten by the police, they also have to endure the most-racist insults hurled at them by the police. The DOJ report shows the whole culture of white supremacy in the Ferguson Police Department and city government.

There are ugly examples of the racist culture like remarks in emails or casually traded comments among police supervisors and court officials. One email from a city official depicts Black people as monkeys. Another talks about Black women having abortions as a way to stop crime. Another says Obama would not be president for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” One email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.” Another 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 …’”

The DOJ report says there is no indication that anyone who engaged in these racist communications was ever disciplined, and no one was ever even asked to refrain from such activity – in fact such emails were usually forwarded along to others.


The report is damning. But at the same time, it is clearly not about – nor could it be about – actually doing something to put an end to such crimes against Black people in Ferguson. First of all, just look at what all else is going on around the release of this report: the continuing brutality and murder of Black people by cops and the continuing workings of the system to let killer cops go free. Again, the very day this report was released, the DOJ announced it was NOT going to bring any civil rights charges against the cop who killed Michael Brown.

The report simply says that city officials in Ferguson should acknowledge they have caused mistrust and violated civil rights.

Well, the mayor of Ferguson was quick to respond. He held a press conference to make the statement that such racism “will not be tolerated.” Then, as if to assure people that the problem is being solved, he announced that two people had been put on suspension and one had been fired.

This is bullshit! The Black people who have been and continue to be the victims of the Ferguson police know that the rot runs a lot deeper and higher. And it is not just the police but this whole system that needs these police to enforce the oppressive situation of Black people. As the chant that rang in the streets of Ferguson – and then around the country – put it: “Indict, Convict, Put the Killer Cops in Jail! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!”

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