Department of Justice Report on Pervasive Racism in Ferguson Police and Courts Provokes Calls for Accountability

Posted March 18, 2015

MP3 Interview with Lizz Brown, St. Louis-based attorney, political analyst and columnist, conducted by Scott Harris

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A cascade of disturbing events has once again shaken the community of Ferguson, Missouri, following the release of a Department of Justice report examining the conduct of the town’s police and courts. On March 11, just hours after Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned, protesters converged on Ferguson’s police headquarters and then shots fired there injured two police officers. The officers were not critically wounded and were both soon released from the hospital. Several days later on March 14, police arrested 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams, who they say admitted firing the shots. Williams, who maintains he was not firing his gun at police, but another party in a personal dispute, faces several charges, including two counts of first-degree assault.

Statements made by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar – where he described the shooting as an ambush and said the shooter may have been embedded with protesters – have been widely criticized as inaccurate and incendiary.

The scathing Justice Department report, which provoked the resignations of Chief Jackson, the city manager, a municipal court judge and two police supervisors, determined that nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system disproportionately impacted African Americans, which regularly targeted black residents for traffic tickets and issued arrest warrants to maximize city revenue. A separate Justice Department report cleared Officer Darren Wilson of any federal civil rights charges tied to his shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In August, Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Lizz Brown, a St. Louis-based attorney, political analyst and columnist who assesses the current tense situation in Ferguson and the future of the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.

For more information on groups working to end racial profiling and reform police practices in Ferguson and communities of color nationwide, visit http://HandsupUnited.org.

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