Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ferguson DOJ Report

The Washington Post highlights some of key passages in the Ferguson DOJ report. I think it's important to note that while Ferguson isn't an isolated incident, it is a particularly egregious one, and as someone who has spent her life in the St. Louis area, illustrative of the racial bias that mars the city as a whole.

Ezekiel Edwards for the ACLU wrote about American policing writ large. He says:
The following cities and states across the nation - New York City, Minneapolis, Chicago, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Boston - have documented accounts of police departments aggressively over-enforcing low-level, nonviolent "offenses" most heavily in communities of color. It is clear that the unequal and unfair treatment of minorities by the Ferguson Police Department isn't just occurring on an isolated bit of U.S. geography. It's a problem from sea to shining sea.

These disparities persist despite the fact that, across the country, whites are more likely to be found with contraband than blacks, as studies consistently show. Indeed, the Justice Department found that while black drivers in Ferguson are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops (even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated), blacks are found in possession of contraband 26 percent less often than white drivers.
This isn't to downplay the severity of the racism practiced by the Ferguson police department, but to recognize that there is a long-standing problem of over-policing communities of color. Sadly, what I've read in the DOJ report isn't shocking at all.