Ferguson, MO officials were so totally rattled by the Justice Department's scathing screed that right after giving a press conference promising to curb their racist enthusiasm, the police promptly arrested a few people who had the gall to be standing around on a public street, listening to them talk.
Why Attorney General Eric Holder and his minions didn't throw the book at this corrupt town without pity instead of issuing a strongly worded warning to them is anybody's guess. But I suppose it would be too hard for Eric Holder to immediately sue* to disband a small town police department that seems to have gotten its training in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. It would have been too hard for Eric Holder, who wracked his brain to successfully figure out an extra-legal rationale for extrajudicial assassinations-by-president, to figure out a way to criminally indict elected officials for gross dereliction of duty, fraud, theft, assault, and violations of probably every penal code devised by a state or federal legislature.
Punishing the Ferguson power structure turns out to be just as hard as punishing the Wall Street banking cartel and the torturers of the CIA. Because each in its own way functions to turn the wheels of neoliberal capitalism. Ferguson is just one tiny wheel within the larger corporate wheel that grinds regular people to dust as it churns along. And the greasing of the wheel of neoliberal capitalism is the whole raison d'etre of the American government.
The best that the Obama administration can do in a police state which it enables, controls, militarizes and funds is to perform periodic whitewashes when situations become fraught and the rabble rouses itself, as it did in the wake of Michael Brown's death and emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Plus, Barack Obama needs some timely public relations cover for when he travels to Selma this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights.
From the New York Times:
The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.
Just as the oligarchy operates in the wider world -- by plunder -- so does the Ferguson Police Department. "Ferguson's law enforcement practices are shaped by the City's focus on revenue rather than public safety needs," reads the report, thus instantly creating distrust between the cops and their plundered and oppressed clientele.The report gave credence to many of the grievances aired last year by African-Americans in angry, sometimes violent protests after the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Though the Justice Department separately concluded that the officer, Darren Wilson, who is white, violated no federal laws in that shooting, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said investigations revealed the root of the rage that brought people into the streets.
This is what happens when austerity is dictated from on high, from the federal and state governments. This is what happens when the rich are coddled at the expense of the poor. The poor will be soaked. The only possible trickle-down is punishment.
The Department of Justice concludes that Ferguson's illegal police and court practices impose crippling hardship on victims, and that citizens are even confined to debtors' prisons for their inability to pay fines on trumped up charges. People lose their jobs and their housing. They are, in effect, being culled from the herd. They are predominantly black.
The DoJ report lists incident after incident, assault after assault. And so far, the only resignations tendered have been from town employees who wrote racist emails about the Obamas. The woman who was jailed for failing to pay for parking tickets gets no recompense. A man who lost his federal government job because he was charged with falsely telling a cop his name was "Mike" instead of Michael is not getting his position back.
Even when people dared question unconstitutional orders from police, the reply was often an arrest on a charge of resisting arrest, sometimes accompanied by a stun gun blast. “Supervisors seem to believe that any level of resistance justifies any level of force,” investigators found.
As the Times recounts,
Blacks in Ferguson accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests over a two-year period studied by investigators. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of those charged. A black motorist in Ferguson was twice as likely to be searched, according to the report, even though searches of whites turned up drugs and other contraband more often.
Meanwhile, the White House has come out with its own companion piece, authored by the police state apparatus itself, which concludes that this country has a police-community relations problem. All that Ferguson, and the overweening wider police state, need are more black and brown cops, better training, more public relations gimmicks like police athletic leagues, and a toning- down of the militaristic couture if not the actual military hardware. The practice of handing out surplus Pentagon equipment, like tanks and Humvees, will continue because the wheels of capitalism must continue to spin. Now that brutality and racism have been officially proven to exist, the government will kindly give the sadistic racists themselves first dibs at cleaning up their own acts.The Justice Department’s analysis found that these disparities could not be explained even when correcting for crime rates and demographics. “These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias,” the Justice Department concluded.
The gist of the Obama/Holder Doctrine: "Psychopath, heal thyself".
And all you victims out there? Obama and Holder feel your pain, but it's also on you to improve relations with your oppressors. Because what it really boils down to are "perceptions" and feelings. From the introduction to the White House's Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, released this week:
In establishing the Task Force, the President spoke of the distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities -- the sense that in a country where our basic principle is equality under the law, too many young people, particularly young people of color, do not feel as though they are being treated fairly.
"When any part of the American Family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that is a problem for all of us," said the President. "It means we're not as strong as a country as we can be. And when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we're not as effective at fighting crime as we should be."Obama effectively cancelled out the entire Ferguson report. It's not a criminal abuse problem. It's a distrust problem. There are too many disgruntled kids out there who don't "feel" like they're being treated well when they're tasered or ticketed for no good reason. The abused minority people are in the same cloyingly inclusive "American family" as the cop bullies, after all, so Papa has to convene a therapy session and urge them to just get along.
Obama upholds the neoliberal tenet that police departments exist not to protect and serve communities, but to "fight crime." The militarism will continue, although they suggest that maybe the blatant enjoyment of the sadism should be toned down until they can find a new scapegoat, like ISIS, to command our attention. People are more apt to fall in line when they are convinced that the police state keeping them in line acts with legitimacy and professionalism rather than with the amateur-hour impunity of a Ferguson.
In a nutshell, the Obama task force is calling for a better police state through better propaganda. No rogue cops, crooked politicians or larcenous banksters will actually go to prison. Incarceration will continue to be the purview of low level drug offenders and traffic scofflaws, for the continued profit of private jailer-landlords.
Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report lists solutions that were deliberately excluded from Obama's task force report:
- Decriminalizing drug use, homelessness, sex work and mental illness,
so as to take armed and violent cops out of many of the situations in
which they brutalize and murder civilians;
Removing all financial incentives police departments now have to make low-level drug arrests and ending the use of confiscated assets by police departments;
- Federal legislation to require police departments to report all
cases of excessive force against civilians and funding for the
Department of Justice to gather and maintain those statistics. Right now
the only figures on police killings are assembled by private entities;
Curbing police and prosecutorial misconduct by means including the establishment of special prosecutors to go after district attorneys and cops;
- Granting automatic reparations in the form of monetary settlements, medical, housing and tuition assistance to the families of the falsely convicted;
- Immediate banning of the imprisonment of juveniles with adults and the swift phasing out of juvenile prisons in favor of healing, educational and therapeutic institutions.
- Instituting meaningful education, self-improvement and skills programs for all those confined in prisons and jails, and decent health care for all those in the nation's prisons and jails;
- Stopping the racist profiling and roundups of immigrants and the legislation that requires it.
- Abolition of mandatory sentences for various offenses and requirement of racial and ethnic impact studies before passage of laws creating new felony offenses;
- Full transparency in the fines and punishments levied upon inmates in prisons and jails;
- Subsidizing visits and phone contact between the incarcerated and their families on the outside, as family ties are one of the main determinants of successful integration of ex prisoners into society, such as it is.
It's up to all of us to continue taking to the streets when justice continues to be denied, and injustice continues to fester beneath the band-aids of government reports and platitudinous speeches by corrupt politicians.
* Update, 3/6: Reuters reports that Eric Holder vowed to "look into" breaking up the Ferguson P.D. if the racism doesn't miraculously get better of its own accord.
"We are prepared to use all the power that we have ... to ensure that the situation changes there," Holder told reporters.
Asked if that included dismantling the Ferguson Police Department, Holder said, "If that's what's necessary, we're prepared to do that."