After months of civilian outcry across the country, the United States Department of Justice finally launched a full federal investigation into the activities of the Ferguson police over the past few years, and they've confirmed the worst of what was already obvious to millions of Americans: that minorities were routinely singled out, that charges were designed to be unfair, and that most police activity was solely to generate money.
Anyone living in any city could probably have already told you that.The full report is here
, but here's a rundown of some things you'll learn from it:
-The lead cause for arrest and detainment in Ferguson for black people was "resisting arrest," with no other criminal charges. In other words, innocent people were arrested for knowing they were innocent and questioning why they were stopped. The investigation found that from 2012 to 2014, 100% of these groundless "resisting arrest" cases were black citizens.
-The department regularly issued arrest warrants for minor infractions without informing the "guilty" party at all. This was most often done to black citizens.
-The city of Ferguson has depended heavily upon money from petty fines. Emails confirm they have a goal of "beating" each year by fining more people for as much as they can.
-The Ferguson PD regularly exchanged mass email jokes about black people being uneducated, ignorant, dirty, lazy deadbeats who belong in jail, including jokes that black women who get abortions are helping prevent future crime.
-Ferguson officials regularly cleared and dismissed evidence of tickets and citations for themselves, friends, relatives and politicians.
-Ferguson courts added as much money as they legally could to all charges, adding fees to court summons and more. Some fines cited by the investigation include $531 for high grass, $302 for a Manner of Walking violation and more.
-When someone missed a payment on a fine, even a partial payment or was a few days late, an arrest warrant would be sent out for them with no notification or warning and no chance to explain what happened.
-In America, jail time for a fine is supposed to reduce said fine. In Ferguson, the amount of jail time often went unrecorded and people were released owing as much as ever.
-Arrest warrants were issued "almost exclusively" as threats to push for payments.
-Many speeding tickets were given out without actually citing the vehicle's speed. This allowed officers to act as if it were a mistake, then add whatever speed they wanted to the charges sometimes weeks later.
-Mentally ill and physically injured people were often handled with excessive force.
-In 2014 officers beat and arrested a black teenager for "trespassing" on his girlfriend's property, where he had been invited over.
-Over the past couple years Ferguson officers have used attack dogs exclusively on black people.
-One black man was resting in his car at a park after he had played basketball. An officer accused him of being a pedophile simply for being a single man at a park where children also play. The officer charged him with "making a false declaration" for giving his name as Mike instead of Michael, for not wearing a seatbelt despite sitting still in a parked car, and for being resistant of arrest.
-After a theft at a dollar store, an officer questioned a church minister who was pumping gas nearby. When the minister gave his identification and offered to return to the store to prove he wasn't the thief, the officer immediately handcuffed and detained him. The store clerk was later brought in and confirmed the man did not even resemble the thief. The department unlawfully dismissed charges of false detainment.
-Frequently, officers would approach random people (black in every known case) and demand their I.D. in order to run a check for outstanding warrants. If the people asked why (a constitutional right) the officers would become verbally abusive. No outstanding warrants were found this way.
-Black men were regularly arrested without probable cause, sometimes for claims that the officer smelled drugs. No drugs would be found.
-Police tackled a man leaving their own police station when they decided he looked a little like another unrelated man. Again, he was charged with "resisting arrest" because he wanted to know why he was being attacked.
-Many people who had committed no crime were arrested for "talking back" or "protesting".
-Police regularly harassed black residents, calling them bastards, motherfuckers, bitches and idiots when they were simply going about their everyday business. Some people were harassed for standing in line but not moving fast enough.
-There were many instances where officers arrested people for coming to the aid of injured loved ons or friends. In 2014 a man was holding his girlfriend who had been in a car accident. When officers arrived they demanded he move away. He hesitated because he was pressing her wounds, and the police arrested him for failing to comply with them fast enough, during which she bled profusely.
-Another woman in 2013 tried to reach her fiance who had also been in a crash. She was arrested and jailed for not remaining on the sidewalk.
This is only a small, small summary of the overall report (link at top), and citizen complaints against Ferguson police are not even all that exceptional; many other cities have far more controversial police departments who simply have not been subjected to investigations this thorough.
This is an example of America working the way it's actually supposed to work: when citizens say there's corruption, there is supposed to be an investigation like this to confirm whether or not they have a basis for their complaints. Unfortunately, it happens all too seldom, and now we're left wondering what exactly will be done about it from here.