The Corner

Who’d Have Thought? Justice Department Targets Ferguson Police Department For Court-Enforced Conversion to Obama-style Policing

Wait a second. Do you mean to tell me that Eric Holder’s high-profile civil rights investigation of the Michael Brown shooting was just a pretext? That the Justice Department was just using a shooting in which there was no evidence of a civil rights violation as an excuse to subject the police department in Ferguson, Mo., to a full-scale “investigation” into its “patterns and practices”? That – surprise! – Holder’s minions managed to find systematic racism and constitutional violations that can only be cured by a coercive, court-monitored “agreement”?

Who could have predicted such a thing? Oh, that’s right, I did.

As I explained in a December column:

Here is how the game works. Holder streams in behind a tragedy that [Al] Sharpton and [President] Obama have demagogued. He announces a civil-rights investigation. Eventually, he backs down from the threat of an indictment in the individual case, never conceding that the supporting evidence was not there, usually citing some strawman injustice that has nothing to do with the matter at hand — in Florida [the Trayvon Martin case], for example, it was “stand your ground” gun laws that purportedly needed reforming. But, the attorney general is pleased to add, the original civil-rights probe of the non-crime has metastasized into a thoroughgoing civil-rights probe of the state or local police department’s training, practices, and . . . drumroll . . . institutional racism.

You never get to see what that investigation turns up. States and their subdivisions know they cannot afford to go toe-to-toe with the Beltway behemoth. Big cities, moreover, are governed by Democrats sympathetic to the Obama/Holder race obsessions — they’re happy to have the feds come in and hamstring police with “social justice” guidelines that would be a hard sell politically. So the Justice Department makes the locals an offer they can’t refuse: A consent decree that makes the Treaty of Versailles look like a slap on the wrist. This device is the license by which the Obama administration is remaking state law enforcement in its own image.

How do they get away with this? Well, Obamacare may be the most notorious “reform” progressives have foisted on an unsuspecting nation in modern times, but it’s not the only one. In 1994 — the last time before 2009 that Democrats controlled the White House and both congressional chambers — they rammed through a monstrosity known as the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.” A Clinton deputy attorney general named Eric Holder was among the first to exploit it.

Consistent with the Left’s view of the states as cauldrons of racism, the statute criminalizes “any government authority” that “engage[s] in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of [federal] rights, privileges, or immunities.” It is the civil-rights laws writ large — imposed on whole cities rather than threatened against individual police officers and citizens. And for good measure, the act encourages the attorney general to file civil lawsuits in federal court to “obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the [offensive] pattern or practice.”

Under this scheme, there are now more than 20 major American cities and their police departments beholden to the Obama Justice Department.

With that as background, behold the Justice Department’s dual announcement yesterday regarding Ferguson. Holder had to concede that there was no civil rights case to be had against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown – the “Hands up, don’t shoot” narrative is sheer fiction. Nevertheless, though, Holder announced that, after evaluating the Ferguson Police Department as a whole, his civil rights division found “a pattern or practice of” racial bias in both policing and the court system, searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and interference with the free expression rights of all peaceful protesters (no mention whether that includes those who “assembled” in the stores they were videotaped looting).

But not to worry: the Obama administration has “recommendations” to help the Ferguson PD out. You mean  “recommendations” like I give you advice and you can take it or leave it as you see fit? Not exactly:

The [Justice Department] findings include two sets of recommendations, 26 in total, that the Justice Department believes are necessary to correct the unconstitutional FPD and Ferguson Municipal Court practices.  The recommendations include: changing policing and court practices so that they are based on public safety instead of revenue; improving training and oversight; changing practices to reduce bias, and; ending an overreliance on arrest warrants as a means of collecting fines.

The Justice Department will require that the recommendations and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders [!] as well as independent oversight.  The Justice Department has provided its investigative report to the FPD and in the coming weeks, the Civil Rights Division will seek to work with the City of Ferguson and the Ferguson community to develop and reach an agreement for reform, using the recommendations in the report as the starting point.  

Our work is done here. On to Staten Island.    


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