The findings from two civil-rights investigations in Missouri have some Columbus residents and Ohio State students thinking twice about law enforcement officers’ handling of situations.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the findings of two civil-rights investigations related to the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department on Wednesday.
“Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
The report shed light on the source of the racial tension that exploded in Ferguson after a black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white officer, Holder said.
Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on Aug. 9. It was announced by a grand jury on Nov. 24 that Wilson would not face criminal charges.
Since the decision, protests have broken out across the country and other instances of minority deaths by police force have come to light.
Rich Bailey, a third-year in communication, said he doesn’t believe citizens should generalize police just because of the corruption inside the Ferguson Police Department.
“I’m a black man, and I haven’t had problems with the law at all. So looking at my situation, I haven’t faced impartiality,” Bailey said.
Last week, The New York Times reported on an event that occurred in 2008 in which a Ferguson city official sent a derogatory email about President Barack Obama, saying, “What black man holds a steady job for four years?”
Lanier Holt, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, said the racist emails exchanged by the FPD should make people question the ethics of the police.
“As evidenced by the multitude of blacks being killed by cops and white people consistently believing we somehow did something to bring this on ourselves, I’m convinced that explaining racism to some whites is like explaining religion: ‘For those who believe, no explanation necessary, for those who don’t, no explanation possible.’”
Holt added that although he has no reason to believe the CPD makes decisions based on race, the events that have transpired cause him to be skeptical of the way they operate.
“I would like to say they are impartial, but given the dealings of police in major cities around Ohio, and around the country, it is hard to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point,” he said.
In regards to Ferguson, Holder said it is time to change how the department operates.
“Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action. The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource-intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding.”