This past Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he is prepared to use his full authority to reform Ferguson’s police department, even going as far as to “dismantle” it if necessary.
A report released on Wednesday by the Justice Department found that there was “widespread racial bias” in Ferguson’s police department. During the investigation, several racist emails were found to be sent by workers within the department. This discovery resulted in the prompt resignation of two supervisors, and the firing of a third employee.
The report concluded that excessive force was used regularly. It also pointed out that 93% of those arrested by the Ferguson PD, were African American.
President Obama concurred with the findings of the Justice Department, saying that investigation into racial bias was “very clear.”
The investigation was conducted in response to the incident involving Michael Brown seven months ago. On August 9, 2014, Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Many have since questioned the validity of Wilson’s action, and believe they may have been racially motivated.
However, tensions boiled over on November 24, when Saint Louis county prosecutor announced that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson. Nationwide protests and riots ensued this decision, and some protests were even seen here at UMBC.
Although the Justice Department plans to “reform” the Ferguson Police Department, they made it clear last Wednesday that they would not pursue charges against Wilson.
Holder expanded on what exactly these “reforms” could entail when he was at Andrews Air Force Base. He told reporters, “We are prepared to use all the powers that we have … to ensure that the situation changes there. That means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.”
When asked if this could include completely dismantling the department, Holder said, “If that’s what’s necessary, we are prepared to do that.”
According to Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, city officials will meet with the Justice Department in about two weeks to begin negotiating agreements on reforms. He also said that whatever they agree upon must achieve “mutual satisfaction.”
Although agreement is optimal for the sake of efficiency, the Justice Department has the option to sue and force reform if a compromise cannot be reached, and they will have the upper hand in these negotiations.