A damning report into the way crime is handled in Ferguson, MO., has confirmed that not all local criminal justice systems are equal and some are riddled with bad practices.
This month the Justice Department called on Ferguson, Mo., to “overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight,” reported the New York Times.
The report followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson last year. The Justice Department’s 86 page report was in line with the findings of a grand jury which declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in November. An 86-page report stated that, “Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to the ground.”
Wilson encountered Brown on Aug. 9. He was a suspect in a convenience store theft, according to reports. After a tussle, Brown was shot and killed. The aftermath of the shooting made national headlines and resulted in riots in Ferguson.
In a press conference this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he agreed with the Grand Jury’s decision.
However, the report detailed numerous problems with Ferguson’s criminal justice system. The New York Times reported how the city was using its police and courts as “moneymaking ventures,” and citizens were stopped and handcuffed without probable cause. It said police traded in racial slurs, used stun guns routinely and treated anyone who questioned police tactics as suspicious.
The report backed up many of the grievances that were aired in 2014, after the deadly police shooting of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. Holder said investigations revealed the root of the rage that brought people into the streets.
“Seen in this context — amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices — it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,” Mr. Holder stated.
Ferguson is not the only place in which the criminal justice system has been badly compromised. There have also been well documented instances in Texas in which police officers have engaged in dubious practices.
In 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported on how police in Tenaha in Texas, were accused of stripping visitors who were predominantly black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. “Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: voluntarily sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes,” the Tribune reported.
When police officers are engaging in dubious and unlawful practices, it calls into question arrests they make. It’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to expose flaws in a compromised criminal justice system.