Unnecessary arrests, unlawful citations, persistent racial bias—a federal report released Wednesday has exposed the often egregious policing practices of Ferguson, Missouri.
For example, the report found that African Americans make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, but accounted for 93 percent of all arrests between 2012 and 2014.
The investigation was spurred by the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in August. A separate report found insufficient evidence to charge Wilson with a civil-rights violation, but the deeper dive into the systemic biases of Ferguson’s local government is disturbing.
Here are just a few of the disturbing stories revealed in the report.
The man who was just trying to cool off after a basketball game
In the summer of 2012, a Ferguson police officer pulled behind an African-American man who had been sitting in his car “cooling off” from a basketball game in a Ferguson public park, according to the report.
The officer demanded identification and the man’s Social Security number, accused him of being a pedophile because of the presence of children in a park, and asked to search his car. When the man refused to allow the search, the Ferguson police officer placed him under arrest.
From the report (emphasis ours):
In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.
The car with phantom marijuana
The report alleges a November 2013 arrest violates the Fourth Amendment because of a lack of probable cause during an incident in which an officer claimed to have smelled marijuana emanating from a car full of five young African-Americans.
From the report:
“In November 2013, an officer approached five African-American young people listening to music in a car. Claiming to have smelled marijuana, the officer placed them under arrest for disorderly conduct based on their “gathering in a group for the purposes of committing illegal activity.” The young people were detained and charged—some taken to jail, others delivered to their parents—despite the officer finding no marijuana, even after conducting an inventory search of the car. Similarly, in February 2012, an officer wrote an arrest notification ticket for Peace Disturbance for “loud music” coming from a car. The arrest ticket appears unlawful as the officer did not assert, and there is no other indication, that a third party was disturbed by the music—an element of the offense.”
The man who “trespassed” at his girlfriend’s family’s house
Imagine going to see your girlfriend at her grandparents’ house and ending up getting struck with a stun gun.
Here’s what happened:
“In a January 2014 incident, officers attempted to arrest a young African-American man for trespassing on his girlfriend’s grandparents’ property, even though the man had been invited into the home by the girlfriend. According to officers, he resisted arrest, requiring several officers to subdue him. Seven officers repeatedly struck and used their ECWs against the subject, who was 5’8” and 170 pounds. The young man suffered head lacerations with significant bleeding.”
The man who talked to another man and ended up getting a 20-second stun gun
In January 2013, officers used a stun gun on an African-American man for approximately 20 seconds, according to the report:
“In January 2013, a patrol sergeant stopped an African-American man after he saw the man talk to an individual in a truck and then walk away. The sergeant detained the man, although he did not articulate any reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. When the man declined to answer questions or submit to a frisk—which the sergeant sought to execute despite articulating no reason to believe the man was armed—the sergeant grabbed the man by the belt, drew his ECW, and ordered the man to comply. The man crossed his arms and objected that he had not done anything wrong. Video captured by the ECW’s built-in camera shows that the man made no aggressive movement toward the officer. The sergeant fired the ECW, applying a five-second cycle of electricity and causing the man to fall to the ground. The sergeant almost immediately applied the ECW again, which he later justified in his report by claiming that the man tried to stand up. The video makes clear, however, that the man never tried to stand—he only writhed in pain on the ground. The video also shows that the sergeant applied the ECW nearly continuously for 20 seconds, longer than represented in his report. The man was charged with Failure to Comply and Resisting Arrest, but no independent criminal violation.”
The man trying to help his girlfriend after a car accident
From the report:
“We also reviewed many instances in which FPD officers arrested individuals who sought to care for loved ones who had been hurt. In one instance from May 2014, for example, a man rushed to the scene of a car accident involving his girlfriend, who was badly injured and bleeding profusely when he arrived. He approached and tried to calm her. When officers arrived they treated him rudely, according to the man, telling him to move away from his girlfriend, which he did not want to do.
“They then immediately proceeded to handcuff and arrest him, which, officers assert, he resisted. EMS and other officers were not on the scene during this arrest, so the accident victim remained unattended, bleeding from her injuries, while officers were arresting the boyfriend. Officers charged the man with five municipal code violations (Resisting Arrest, Disorderly Conduct, Assault on an Officer, Obstructing Government Operations, and Failure to 82 Comply) and had his vehicle towed and impounded. In an incident from 2013, a woman sought to reach her fiancé, who was in a car accident. After she refused to stay on the sidewalk as the officer ordered, she was arrested and jailed. While it is sometimes both essential and difficult to keep distraught family from being in close proximity to their loved ones on the scene of an accident, there is rarely a need to arrest and jail them rather than, at most, detain them on the scene.”
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.