The one that got away

From The Grio:

In the clip posted on Twitter, the handcuffed white suspects has been left completely unattended and decides to jump up and run away. Meanwhile, right next to him five police officers are surrounding and tasering the black suspect.

No one even pays attention to the white suspect for the most part, and he’s already across the street by the time we see just one of the cops finally going after him.

I’m not convinced it’s all about race in this one.  I think it’s more of a matter of sloppy police teamwork.  Take from it what you wish though.

You can’t take your eyes off perceived threats, even if they are handcuffed.  With five officers in close proximity, there’s no reason why that guy should have been able to abscond like that, even if he was eventually apprehended.




Analysis of the DoJ Ferguson Report Part 2: the court

If there was a point of origin for all that ails Ferguson, in my opinion, that point would be the Ferguson Municipal Court.  It’s not as much of a court for the dispensation of justice as it is a profit engine for the city of Ferguson.  When there’s open dialogue between the city manager, the judge, and the chief of police talking about ways to increase revenue, the court no longer serves as an arbiter of justice.  The people involved with making the court systems in St Louis County, and not just Ferguson, more concerned about generating funding for the city than ensuring that laws are adjudicated properly are the ones primarily responsible for the dysfunction that we see now.

Last September, I posted what I thought was the root cause of the protests and riots in Ferguson.  I still stick with that idea in light of what I’ve read in the DoJ’s report.  Had the city not decided to fund its budget on the backs of fines and citations, I don’t think any of the other dominoes would have fallen as they did.

The system is set up for corruption to creep in.  For example, Ronald Brockmeyer was the judge in Ferguson.  He was simultaneously the judge in nearby Breckenridge Hills, lead prosecutor in Florissant, and municipal prosecutor in Vinita Park and Dellwood.  He did all those positions in the evening while moonlighting after completing his day job of being a divorce and criminal defense lawyer in St. Charles.  He’s not the only one either.  There are other lawyers there doing the same thing with some even working for the same law firms during the day.  There have been a few stories in the media about the system there, but for the most part, the national media has skipped that story.

In light of the arrangements between judge and prosecutors, I think they would be ripe for a RICO charge if it’s possible to charge government in that manner.  I’m not sure if such a thing could be done.  However, the manner in which the police departments and courts operate with each other, it’s nothing short of a criminal enterprise in full regalia.  The police are hammering away at the 4th Amendment while the courts are crushing the 14th, among others.  See, while the regular citizens have to pay their fines or go to jail and ending up with more fines, those on the inside regularly had tickets magically disappear without having to pay a dime.  I’m not sure if the mob could pull off such a feat.

Brockmeyer resigned his position as judge in Ferguson as well as most of the others that he held.  That is a start.  If there is anyone brought before a grand jury, it should be him and every other judge/prosecutor/lawyer that aided and abetted the system.  The politicians who appointed and paid them should have to face the music as well.

No one is above the law, not even those of us who are entrusted to enforce it.  When the enforcers become the oppressors, who are the people going to turn to when they have problems?  Want to know why the people of Ferguson have a problem with their government?  Read the report.  It’s all there in black and white.  Contrary to what you hear from the media, race has nothing to do with it other than being collateral damage.

Analysis of the DoJ Ferguson Report Part 1: FPD

I finally finished reading the report on Ferguson’s police department and court system, and I have to get one thing out of the way first.  If you listen to the media and the people they have on-air talking, they make the entire thing appear to be about race and racial attitudes.  If you think that’s what it’s all about, then you need to read the report for yourself in its entirety.

It is NOT about race.  If it were, you could remove the racial aspects and the report would fall apart.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, it does not fall apart, and moving the racial aspects make the report look much worse than what’s being said.

I went into the reading with my own preconceived notions.  Based upon what I had heard being said, I figured there were a few bad apples at the top, with most of the officers being decent officers in need of leadership and training.  After reading the entire report, I think I was close to hitting the nail on the head with a few things I didn’t consider.

The accounts of unlawful stops and arrests floored me.  As someone who works in law enforcement, I have insight on what constitutes violating a person’s constitutional rights, and the FPD basically put the Constitution in a shredder.  Their actions sometimes read like the sheriffs and marshals from the Wild-Wild West days as opposed to modern-day policing.  On what grounds do you arrest someone who’s coming to the aid of a loved one that has just been hurt in a car accident and is bleeding profusely?  When a landlord calls to have someone evicted, why would the landlord end up in handcuffs for simply standing outside the apartment?

Beyond the stops and arrests, their use of force policy basically didn’t exist.  They had one in writing, but it doesn’t appear to have been enforced or even audited for compliance by anyone, not even the chief himself.  When officers are blatantly using excessive force without any type of coaching, training, or other follow-up actions, you sow a fertile breeding ground for cops who think they can pretty much do anything.  Judging from the report, they did what they wanted to, regardless of any rights trampled or squashed in the process.

It appears to have all been something that could have been prevented or even corrected by adequate training and follow-up.  I don’t think the officers themselves were racist or targeted Blacks.  They were just following orders, which was to raise revenue.  Their primary means of generating revenue was arresting people, and they did what they had to in order to generate arrests or write citations.  The officers were functioning within the organization as it was ran from the top down.

What may harm the officer’s futures is their credibility as a witness in court cases.  There was little to no accountability of their actions.   As a result, they didn’t report their actions, such as use-of-force reports, accurately and timely.  There were instances where officers were investigated by Internal Affairs for different reasons, and nothing happened to the officers.  Even when being caught in a lie, the officers were allowed to continue working with no disciplinary actions.  Once an officer can no longer be a credible witness, they are pretty much worthless as a LEO.  With the magnitude of the issues brought forward by the report, the entire department may be worthless as credible witnesses.  Maybe the best thing for them would be for Holder to disband the force when looking at things from that perspective.

The media portrays this whole ordeal as being about race.  It’s not.  It’s about the lack of due process as well as the infringement on the rights of Americans that are supposedly protected by the Constitution.  I haven’t listened to all the reporting being done, but I don’t recall any police figure that was interviewed ever addressing the unlawful searches and arrests that were routinely conducted by FPD.  Nobody’s addressed the excessive use of force, even by their own guidelines and policies.

As long as the topic stays stuck on race, it’s easy for some to get upset while others completely dismiss everything.  We’ve seen this play out time and time again.  I read a quote somewhere that stated every protest and riot by Blacks since the 60s has been as the result of police actions against members of the community.  It’s time to strip race out of the conversation so that the root problems can be addressed.  Otherwise, we’ll see the same thing happen in a few years somewhere else.

And so the cleanup begins

Breaking news today that Ferguson Chief of Police Tom Jackson is stepping down…

DEVELOPING: The chief of the Ferguson, Mo., police department, which was cleared in a racially-charged shooting but accused of years of racial profiling in a subsequent Justice Department probe, will resign, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

Chief Tom Jackson’s resignation would come one day after the Ferguson City Council unanimously approved a resolution to part ways with City Manager John Shaw following the probe that alleged racial bias at the department and courts.

I can’t say that I’m surprised at all.  I still haven’t completed the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, but from what I’ve read thus far, I am honestly surprised that the DoJ didn’t just come in and shutter or clean out the entire department.

I haven’t seen anything that would support the notion that most, if not all, of the officers harbored any racist viewpoints, but there is more than enough evidence to show that there was a complete lack of training in constitutional law and/or policing.  It seems as though the decision makers were making up the rules as they went.

The court clerk and two supervisory officers were fired along with the resignation of the judge, the city manager, and now the police chief.  It’s a start to rehabilitating the police and court system there.  I wouldn’t suggest a blanket firing of officers, but based on the reporting, I do believe there is a serious need for use of force and constitutional law training.  Any officers who refuse or cannot adapt to operating within the confines of the Constitution should be relieved of duty.

I’ll still offer my opinion on the report once I finish reading it.

Initial reaction to the Ferguson DoJ report

On March 4th, the Department of Justice released its report on their investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.  Depending on your political and/or social leanings, most people had their beliefs confirmed.  Whether that belief followed the pathway of Holder was looking for an ax to grind or whether the DoJ finally brought the truth to light depends on the person.

I haven’t gone through the entire report myself.  If you’re interested in reading it, I have it at the top of this post.  I’m quite interested in what was found, so I’ll likely have a follow-up post once I complete my reading.  Anyway, given the reports I’ve read on it and the little snippets that I’ve seen so far, I had three initial reactions to what I’ve heard thus far.

Reaction #1:

This isn’t anything new.  I’ve even written about this before.  Six months to the date of the release of this report, I wrote a post on what I observed being the root cause of the riots in Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot.  In that post, I discussed the financial fleecing of the residents of St. Louis County by the municipalities there through traffic fines, arrests, and such.  To hear FPD using initiatives to fill the coffers was not a surprise at all given what I already knew about the policing in that area.

Reaction #2:

Given the nature of the topic, I wasn’t surprised to see that most debate of the substance of the report devolved into discussing the criminality of Black Americans.  Instead of focusing on what the report is bringing to light, many people appear to support the belief that innocent Black people deserve to be treated as criminals just because other Black people commit crimes.  Whether it’s the excuse of “more policing in areas of more crime which happens to be Black neighborhoods” or some other lame assed idea, I haven’t seen nowhere near the response that I thought I would see.

How many people, not in minority groups, ever worry about getting stopped by the police just for existing?  Do you fear walking down the street because you might get pulled over and patted down?  It may sound like a minor inconvenience to you when you don’t have to fear such tactics, but there are Americans, innocent Americans, who are having their rights violated.  We should all be afforded the protections enshrined in the Constitution, and many of the examples pulled from that report are textbook cases of abusing the rights of citizens.  This brings me to my third reaction

Reaction #3:

How many years have we had people wearing the tri-cornered hats, holding rallies, making speeches, and talking about stopping government oppression of American citizens?  Now that there has been examples of actual government oppression of Americans, what do we hear immediately from those groups fighting “government oppression”?

If we don’t stand up for the least among us, who will stand up for us when we need it?

One final thought…  Given my line of work, I know there are good and great cops out there putting their lives on the line every day.  I have no problem with them, and I say a prayer that everyone makes it home to their families at the end of the day.  That said, there are some officers that do not need to be protected or covered for.  There’s a difference between being an asshole cop who just likes to give people a hard time as opposed to one who abuses his position and power.  Those who belong to the latter group should definitely be removed from their positions.  I see where the mayor of Ferguson put disciplinary action on a few officers.  Something tells me that, in a force of 53-55 officers, there were more than two to three officers responsible for the information in that DoJ report.  If the mayor expects to earn the respect of those wronged, he’s going to have to do better than what he’s done thus far.  For his sake and the sake of his city, I hope this is only the beginning of his cleaning out of the FPD.