DOJ on Ferguson: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Pattern of biased policing in Ferguson doesn’t make Wilson easy to charge

Via NBC: DOJ Says Officer Darren Wilson, Cop in Ferguson Case, Won’t Be Charged

“But the Justice Department announced Tuesday after its six-month investigation into the Brown shooting that police in Ferguson have consistently violated citizens’ civil rights. Specifically, while blacks make up 67 percent of the city’s population, they made up 93 percent of arrests from 2012 to 2014. Black drivers were also more than twice as likely to be stopped for a traffic search than whites.”

So, as a member of a police department that consistently violates citizens’ civil rights, Wilson rolls into a predominantly black neighborhood and words are exchanged because Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of a residential street. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe if Brown and Johnson had been walking on the sidewalk they would merely have looked furtive and suspicious.

I don’t know about you, but I walk down the middle of residential streets frequently. So far I’ve generally been smart enough to get out of the way when I hear a car coming. I’m fairly sure I’ve been spotted doing this on any number of occasions by LEO’s. It’s never been a problem. Then again, I’ve never tried doing it while black in a neighborhood policed by the kinds of cops that give us the statistics cited above.

For that matter, when I was about Michael Brown’s age, what seems ages ago, I understood the frustration of being bugged by cops who are out looking for something where there’s nothing to be found. It can make a young person mouthy. In my case, I had a habit at the time in question of walking with a friend from my apartment to a 24/7 convenience store a few blocks away, often in the middle of the night. We walked out of the complex, just over to the main street, hung a right, and strolled nonchalantly, shooting the shit, down the five blocks to get to Time Saver. The only thing along that stretch of highway was a string of businesses that were naturally closed at that time of night. We’d been doing this for months. Watch TV and goof around. Run out of Coke and snacks. Walk to the store. Success!

Then someone must have had their beat changed. One night we got pulled over not more than a block away from home. One of Jefferson Parish’s finest pulled into the parking area just behind us, flashed his lights, let out a little “whoop” from his siren. It was all ID’s and please and thank you and a touch of personal probing. “What are you boys doing out here this late at night?”

It was after curfew and we were of age, with ID to prove it. Nothing to worry about. What we were doing didn’t strike us as any of the officer’s damned business, though. Even so, we answered politely. ID’s were returned. Off we went. Minutes later, we were back to watching late night TV with a bag of drinks and snacks at our disposal.

The next night it happened again. Okay, this is getting annoying. Same damned cop, too, so this jackass already had some idea of what we were up to. Not a damned thing. Please. Thank you. Off we go.

The next night it happened again. This time when we heard the tires crunching gravel behind us, we instinctively reached for our wallets. We had our ID’s in our hands before Officer Friendly could even ask. Mind you, this was well before the day of “he reached for his waistband.” Whatever you do today, do NOT reach for your waistband.

While the cop was busy diddling around in his cruiser, and this was before laptops installed in them, so maybe he was bugging HQ over the radio about the suspicious teenagers off to buy their own equivalent of tea and Skittles, my buddy and I were leaning against the front of the car. Not in “the position.” Just leaning. We were smoking cigarettes. I looked over to my friend and said, indiscretely, that I thought this was getting pretty fucking ridiculous. The cop must have heard but couldn’t believe his ears. “What’d you say?!”

“I said I think this is getting pretty fucking ridiculous. This is three nights in a row we’ve been stopped with no…”

“I don’t think I like your attitude,” says Officer Less Friendly.

Here’s where I discovered that speaking the truth isn’t always the prudent course of action.

“You’re not getting paid to like my fucking attitude.”

What was that about not being black again? Damned good thing for me. Before I knew it, Officer Absolutely Not Fucking Friendly was screaming for me to assume the position, up against the car! I was, shall we say, vigorously frisked, which made the remainder of the walk to and from the store something of a sore affair. Without a mark left on me or funds for an attorney, apparently there’s little to be done when Officer Really Fucking Pissed decides to flat out punch you in the balls while frisking up your leg. Twice.

Mental note: white boy, punched in balls. Years later in Ferguson? Just about anywhere else, for that matter? I imagine there’s a lot of families wishing their sons had merely been junk-punched.

So, yeah, I get having a bad attitude about cops that shake you down for “no reason.” Nothing about walking down the middle of a residential street should lead to a life-ending confrontation. Probably nothing registered in Michael Brown’s mind that said he should just clam up when soon-to-be Officer Deadly barked a lawful order at him.

We’ll never know for sure what Michael said. Maybe it was “you’re not getting paid to like my fucking attitude.”

We’ll never know for sure exactly what happened between that moment and the fatal shooting.

What we do know is this:

“The Justice Department has cleared Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

The federal government announced its decision not to prosecute Wilson in a report released Wednesday, explaining that the officer’s actions on Aug. 9 on a Ferguson, Missouri, street didn’t violate federal civil rights laws and “do not constitute a prosecutable violation.”

“Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

But after reviewing the evidence — including forensics, medical and autopsy reports, and grand jury transcripts — prosecutors couldn’t disprove Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his life when he fatally shot 18-year-old Brown. Witnesses have said Brown had his hands up at the time of the encounter — a crucial detail that federal prosecutors also couldn’t prove.”

Sorry, Michael and family. Without better evidence, we’re left to suppose that you had the misfortune of being shot by one of Ferguson’s few non-racist cops. Poor luck, that.

2 replies »

  1. Now that we have the report on the Ferguson Police Department as a whole, it’s quite easy to see that Officer Wilson’s “get the f*** on the sidewalk” remark was a standard practice to allow them to eventually get to the “you’re going to be fined for jaywalking” event. He didn’t have a clue as to what had transpired at the store with the cigarillos shortly beforehand, and I find any statements to the contrary to be eminently untruthful. I’ll take Dorian Johnson’s word over Wilson’s any day of the week.