Ferguson report highlights racial inequalities

Ferguson Commission report highlights racial inequalities in St. Louis after fatal shooting of Michael Brown

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People march to demand Justice for Michael Brown stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and demand police reform in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2014

A year after fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, a report released by a panel formed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon highlights a long history of racial divides and inequalities in the St. Louis area.

The 16-member Ferguson Commission, which Nixon appointed last November, released the report on Monday.

The 198-page report released by Ferguson Commission urged reforms in several areas including police practises and the court system to fix racial issues and change overall racial climate that intensified after a white police officer shot dead the unarmed black teenager.

“The data suggests, time and again, that our institutions and existing systems are not equal, and that this has racial repercussions,” the commission wrote.

“We have not moved beyond race.”

The report consisted of three distinct sections, “Justice For All”, “Youth at the Centre” and “Opportunity to Thrive”, that pointed out racial inequalities, police reform and education, health care and minimum wage increase opportunuties for children living in poverty.

However, the commission declared it was incapable of implementing the suggested reforms. Additional steps are needed to pass from state legislature and it is not clear if lawmakers will pay attention to the commission’s suggestions.

Racial tensions came into prominence with the death of 18-year-old Ferguson resident Michael Brown by a white police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 triggered protests in the city and across the US.

A decision by a Ferguson grand jury not to indict officer Wilson for his role in Brown's death further fueled the protests as people demanded reforms to the police department and justice system expressing their distrust.

“The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust, and making community safety even more difficult,” the report said.

“Relations between community and police in our region and in Ferguson were strained before Aug. 9, 2014. But the events that occurred on that day and in the months that followed have forever changed the way many citizens in Ferguson, and throughout the region, see law enforcement,” it added in reference to the day Brown was shot.

“Repairing that relationship will not be easy.”

The incident led federal investigations carried out by the Justice Department. The ongoing investigations showed sweeping right abuses in Ferguson’s police, judicial and penal systems.

“Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes,” a US Department of Justice report said in March, 2015, after examining the working of law enforcement officials in Ferguson, Missouri.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said the city were using the police force as a “collection agency”, referring to data that blacks were more likely to receive multiple citations for a single incident with police.

The Justice Department reported that Ferguson’s police department issued at least four citations to blacks on 73 occasions during a single incident, but they issued only four or more citations to non-blacks twice.

According to a inquiry, 93 percent of arrests from 2012 to 2014 pertained to blacks; 85 percent of vehicle stops and 90 percent of citations.

Donald McCullin, Ferguson's Municipal Court judge, ordered the withdrawal of all the arrests made in the city before 2015 on Aug citing the findings of the Department of Justice report.


TRTWorld and agencies