When the Department of Justice announced it was investigating the Ferguson Police Department, I expected the outcome would be negative. Based upon past cases of DOJ investigations, I expected the report would condemn the police for not doing their job well enough, for being out of touch with the community and for failing to provide their community the protection it expected. The DOJ would conclude this to be the result of poor training, bias and corruption. What I did not expect was for any of it to be true. Then I read the report.
As I said, prior to reading the report I expected it to be unflattering. After all, Ferguson is not the first police department to gain the attention of DOJ, nor is this the first report I have seen. However, as I read the report, I realized that this report was different. Although I believe that the investigation was the result of political pressure and fails to prove the Ferguson Police Department is built upon a practice of racial bias, I also believe it proves something far more damning – that the Ferguson criminal justice system as a whole is corrupt to the core. The police, the municipal court and the city prosecutor all work together towards a single goal of lining the city’s bank accounts regardless of whether or not it serves justice.
A review of the DOJ report includes several examples of questionable, financially-motivated actions at all levels of the Ferguson criminal justice system.
- By enacting local municipal codes for a wide range of infractions, even those already a violation of state law, most cases can then be charged locally as ordinance violations. This means that resulting fines revert to the city rather than to the state or county.
- Although the American criminal justice system calls for review by an impartial third party, i.e. the court, Ferguson’s Municipal Judge is hired by the city and overseen by the Police Chief. Several emails obtained by DOJ investigators show a direct line of communication between the City Council, the Police Chief and the Court that was not only acceptable, but routine.
- Almost every aspect of the police department and municipal court was controlled by the city’s need for increased revenue rather than the need to dispense justice. Fines were calculated as a necessary aspect of the annual budget and the number of cases adjudicated increased as the city’s other funding resources dropped.
- City officials and police officers who disagreed with this “funding through fines” were subjected to unfavorable assignments and even discipline. While quotas are virtually unheard of in modern policing, they appear to be a primary focus of employee performance reviews and promotion considerations for Ferguson officers.
In over 20 years of law enforcement I have never heard of a major police department operating in a manner even close to that which is described in the Ferguson report. Sure, from time to time there are reports of small town departments using speed traps or stop sign details to pay for a new patrol car or repairs to City Hall. But I have never imagined a case where every facet of the system could participate in a coordinated effort of this extent. Do not get me wrong, I have little sympathy for criminals and, when I read portions of the report detailing how additional penalties for missing court dates or warrants for missed payments were enacted, I thought “Stop crying and take responsibility.” But when I read that the court refused to set up time payments and never utilizes community service in lieu of steep fines, it lends credibility to the claims that it is all about the money.
The goal of the American criminal justice system is to see that justice is served, not to fill bank accounts. It does not matter if those bank accounts belong to corrupt officers or a corrupt city; a shakedown is still a shakedown.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.