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Mitch Perry Report for 3.5.15 — Ferguson’s gross legacy

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The question one has to ask after reading just the summary of the Justice Department report on the goings-on with the Ferguson, Missouri, police department is: How many other municipal law enforcement agencies act this way in America?

If you want the headline from yesterday to read that Justice concluded that the Ferguson PD violated no federal laws in the death of 18-year-old black youth Michael Brown, well, that was expected. But the depth of anger by black residents that exploded in this Missouri community just outside of St. Louis last summer now has a written document beside it — a document that provides proof that those citizens have been wronged on a systemic basis for far too long. And it really is shocking to read something like this in 2015.

Check out this excerpt from todays’ New York Times:

  • Their report described a city where police officers did not know the law or did not bother to follow it. Internal documents showed Ferguson police officers conducting “pedestrian checks,” in which they stopped people walking down the street and demanded to see their identification without any probable cause. One officer cited in the report told investigators he considered people who refused to show identification to be suspicious or aggressive, and typically arrested them.
  • When people refused to comply with — or even questioned — unconstitutional orders, police sometimes responded with force. Stun guns, for example, were commonly used even when officers were not threatened. “Supervisors seem to believe that any level of resistance justifies any level of force,” the report found.
  • 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.

There has been some pushback on the report, with some charging that because Attorney General Eric Holder was not able to convict a single person (officer Darren Wilson), he’s gone after an entire department and town. But nobody individually is being held accountable, and the police chief of Ferguson still remains in his job.

This surely isn’t part of the American Exceptionalism that was invoked last weekend at CPAC, is it?

Interestingly, in Tallahassee today, the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee holds a hearing on a bill to restrict cities from relying on their police departments to issue ticket quotas to balance their budgets.

In other news..

Last week the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce gave its endorsement to a Cuban Consulate coming to Tampa.

Hillsborough County officials are pretty paranoid about being accused of rigging the game when it comes to a possible transit initiative that voters could weigh in on next year. But using officials from Craig Latimer’s Supervisor of Elections office may be going too far for some folks.

Rick Scott talked about Florida being multi-cultural during Tuesday’s State of the State address, but immigration activists aren’t buying it.

And U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor had an up-close and personal seat at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, watching King v. Burwell play out in front of the nine justices, including a surprisingly silent John Roberts.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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