While I intend to review the Justice Department’s report on the Ferguson PD at length, I do want to make a few quick observations about Eric Holder’s speech and a few excerpts from the reports. Link to speech below:
1.) First of all, the report on Darren Wilson seems to completely validate Bob McCulloch and his claims regarding the witnesses as it pertains to their honesty / reliability. Holder directly references the same instances of witnesses telling stories inconsistent with the forensic evidence, admitting to lying, and/or changing their stories. As such, a number of protesters seem torn between validation at the PD report and outrage at the Wilson report. It’s an interesting and contradictory dichotomy considering that if there is supposedly evidence enough for Holder to brand the entire department as guilty of racial bias, it seems that any legitimate evidence could/should also be used against Wilson as well.
2.) There appears to be lots of anecdotal evidence that is cited largely at face value and without corroboration. For example, in one incident an individual is supposedly harassed for sitting in his car near where a group of children is playing. Holder claims that there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop, but makes no mention of whether or not there was a call in reference to the man watching children playing in the park. It would seem that this information either negligently wasn’t sought or is being willfully overlooked, because if there was no record of anyone calling about the man in the park, that would support an allegation of harassment.
However, if officers receive a call about a suspicious individual sitting in the park watching children playing, they locate an individual matching that description, and who also happens to be confrontational when contact is made, this would definitely meet the standard for reasonable suspicion to justify the stop.
4.) Eric Holder and his department seem unaware of legal principles in a number of cited examples. For example, in the park case discussed above, the individual is patted down for weapons despite the officer having “no reason to believe that the individual is armed.” Apparently, Mr. Holder has never read Terry v. Ohio, the supreme court case that validated the concept of “stop and frisk” which allows officers to search an individual over the outside of their clothing for the possibility of weapons due to officer safety concerns if there is reasonable suspicion for the stop. If there exists reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual in question may be intending harm to the children to whom he has no relation but is watching in an objectively creepy manner, there is more than enough reasonable suspicion to believe that he may be armed for that criminal pursuit for the sake of a Terry frisk. There is obviously not enough here for probable cause warranting an arrest, but there doesn’t have to be for the outer clothing search per Terry v. Ohio.
In another instance, Mr. Holder stated that the department’s use of Tasers was “abusive” even if it was not in violation of the constitution. Apparently, Mr. Holder is unaware of the sixth amendment protection from “Cruel and Unusual” punishment of which any objective definition of “abusive” would fall under.
5.) Holder directly misquoted at least one story in his speech. In this example, he claimed that a woman was forced into homelessness from a one hundred something dollar parking fine. The report indicates that she incurred seven failure to appear warrants, of which homelessness was her excuse for not showing up to court, not a result of court action. Of course, Holder went on to mischaracterize “failure to appear” as “failure to pay” but that deliberately deceptive distinction has become so common these days it barely warrants mentioning.
6.) The racist emails are stupid and worthy of disciplinary action, but they also appear to be worded in such a similar way that they obviously only came from a few people, probably back and forth to each other. In other words, the emails don’t even constitute seven racist individuals. Seven is also a ridiculously low number to support the notion of a culture of racial bias. There is no information available at this point to show if these people were officers, but that may be buried deeper in the report.
7.) Aggregate and disparity statistics are used where most inflammatory. There is no discussion of specific reviews of these incidents (when not in the form of citizen anecdotes) nor any statistics to show trends in individual officers, like for example with Darren Wilson. If there is evidence to support racial bias for every other officer except for Darren Wilson, that is extremely ironic and consequently unlikely. The most likely scenario is that if problem officers could be identified, then the entire department couldn’t be blamed for their actions and the individuals in question could be removed.
Disparities should be signs that there is more to be investigated and not simply a conclusion as is.
8.) Speaking of individual officers and use of force, Holder specifically referenced that the department K9 was used 14 times to bite only black people. However, this is a low enough number that is small enough and over a long enough period of time not to constitute a large enough sample to make any type of inference. Use of force incidents are statistically rare regardless of department, but that doesn’t fuel the outrage. Taking small numbers which are unrepresentative of any conclusion by any statistical process and drawing direct conclusions shows either a complete lack of understanding for the math involved or a deliberate attempt at deception. If there is proof that the Ferguson PD’s K9 officer was regularly using his dog to only bite black suspects due to racial bias why are there no federal charges against that officer in particular if the allegations against him are strong enough to bring up in Holder’s speech?
Obviously, there’s more to discuss but I’m going to cut myself off here.