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.