By Adam Schalke
Protests in Ferguson following recent incidents of police brutality have been frequent.
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. by a police officer over a year ago has finally been investigated by the Federal Department of Justice earlier in the month of February.
In 2014, a black teenager named Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, after an altercation between the two. News of Brown’s death ignited nationwide protest, which in turn threw the “Black Lives Matter” movement into the national spotlight and called for investigations of and reforms to alleged racist police tactics.
Investigations into Ferguson came in 2016, when the DOJ did an investigation of the policing practices of Ferguson earlier this year. The investigation yielded a report that was released earlier in February. The report served as a damning criticism of Ferguson’s policing practices, highlighting and exemplifying extreme incidents of racially-motivated biases in the behaviors of officers.
The Washington Post, one of many newspapers who reported on the investigation, released several highlights from the report that shed light and specifics on the practices of Ferguson’s police department.
Among the mentioned practices included reports of the city relying on police officers extorting fines out of citizens as a means of revenue collection, unequal reports of arrest for people of color in relation to Ferguson’s demographics and many counts of overzealous force on people of color, some of which involved police dogs and violent assault.
In its summary of the investigation, the DOJ called on the Ferguson police department to reform its practices in response to the actions it observed.
Political science professor Jeannine Love was able to offer in depth analysis of many areas that are relevant to the report. When asked if the investigation came too late after the incident to be effective, she linked it to other similar investigations.
“In Cleveland, the DOJ initiated an investigation after the shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in November 2012. In Baltimore, the DOJ initiated an investigation after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in April 2015,” Love explained.
Love pointed out that there are many issues regarding the effectiveness of these investigations.
“In each of these cases, we might say that the DOJ’s action was timely in response to the triggering event that sparked the public outcry that finally forced DOJ’s hand to ‘do something.’ But, clearly, in the scheme of things these investigations are much too little, much too late,” she said.
Love also pointed out what she considers the problematic nature of high profile cases such as this.
“Each time one of these investigations is opened it is in response to a high profile case – essentially if the media decides to pay attention, then the DOJ follows suit. This process in itself is troubling,” she said.