In the aftermath of an explosive and scathing Department of Justice report alleging blatant discrimination, bias and racial stereotyping in the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department, a police official has been fired and two others have been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of racist emails, reports NBCNews.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder‘s Justice Department began an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. The report released after that investigation was unflinching and mind-bogglingly thorough.
After spending more than 100 days on the ground in Ferguson interviewing city officials, including the mayor, police chief, judges, court clerk and “half of FPD’s sworn officers,” the Feds also combed through “over 35,000 pages of police records as well as thousands of emails” and found rampant bias, discrimination and abuse — not only from the police, but from the Ferguson court system as well.
On page 5 of the 102-page report, the emails are first addressed:
“We have found substantial evidence of racial bias among police and court staff in Ferguson. For example, we discovered emails circulated by police supervisors and court staff that stereotype racial minorities as criminals, including one email that joked about an abortion by an African-American woman being a means of crime control.”
In terms of the specifics, the investigation notes the following a string racist emails on page 72, starting in November 2008:
- A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
- A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
- An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
- A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
- A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
- An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
- A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
Tellingly, the DOJ’s report also implicated the Ferguson courts, boldly refuting the “personal-responsbility” claim often used by apologists and “officials” to discredit blacks when claims of discrimination and/or abuse are leveled against the state (or the old “If the blacks didn’t act up, we wouldn’t have to hurt them” trope):
City officials have frequently asserted that the harsh and disparate results of Ferguson’s law enforcement system do not indicate problems with police or court practices, but instead reflect a pervasive lack of “personal responsibility” among “certain segments” of the community. Our investigation has found that the practices about which area residents have complained are in fact unconstitutional and unduly harsh.
But the City’s personal-responsibility refrain is telling: it reflects many of the same racial stereotypes found in the emails between police and court supervisors. This evidence of bias and stereotyping, together with evidence that Ferguson has long recognized but failed to correct the consistent racial disparities caused by its police and court practices, demonstrates that the discriminatory effects of Ferguson’s conduct are driven at least in part by discriminatory intent in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
There’s lots more. Read the entire report here (PDF)
SOURCE: NBC, DOJ | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
Angela Bronner Helm is a Harlem-based writer and educator. Follow her on Twitter at @anjiihelm