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Ferguson Just Got 'Smacked' By DOJ With Filing Of Civil Rights Lawsuit

Government

Should a city just surrender to the power of government because the cost is just too high to fight it?

Demonstrators, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, confront police during a protest along West Florrisant Street on August 11, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014. His death sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and drew nationwide focus on police treatment of black suspects. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Someone should have told the city council and attorneys for Ferguson, Missouri to contact the Ayatollah of Iran before entering into "negotiations" with the Department of Justice.

Apparently, unlike the city officials in Ferguson, Iran knew how to negotiate a good deal for itself. Many feel that the agreement reached between Iran and the United States in the Iran nuclear deal was an agreement decidedly weighted in Iran’s favor.

There were rumors during the mostly secretive negotiations that Iran would agree to some terms and then change its mind until ultimately an agreement was reached. It’s even possible that after the agreement was reached Iran made some changes. We’ll never know and certainly Secretary of State John Kerry will never tell the American public what actually happened.

In any event, it appears that Ferguson will pale in comparison to Iran in its dealings with the DOJ.

Demonstrators, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, confront police during a protest along West Florrisant Street on August 11, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014. His death sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and drew nationwide focus on police treatment of black suspects. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Following the killing of unarmed Michael Brown, an African-American teenager by white police officer Darren Wilson who claimed that he was attacked by Brown in 2014, a grand jury was convened and subsequently decided not to indict Wilson. Typically, that would have been the end of further investigations.

Not so in this case.

African Americans took to the streets for weeks of protests and riots following the grand jury’s decision and the DOJ stepped in and began investigating the police department for constitutional violations.

It was later determined by the DOJ that there had been wide spread racial bias in both the police department and the municipal courts where 67.4 percent of the population is African American, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau.

One DOJ official said the DOJ found that a large percentage of cases in which police documented use of force, force was used against African Americans. Also, all canine bite incidents reported by police show that African American were the ones bitten.

Additionally, African Americans were 68 percent less likely to have their cases dismissed in municipal courts and for a period of April to September 2014, 95 percent of the people kept in jail for more than two days were African American.

Subsequently, the DOJ proposed a "deal" with the City of Ferguson, perhaps one it cannot refuse.

In all fairness, the DOJ and the city had reached a tentative settlement in a 131-page agreement that only an advocate of Obamacare would be proud to have authored. Much of the agreement focused on diversity training, significant pay raises for police, hiring staff to analyze records of arrests and use of force, buying software and of course, supervision or monitoring by the DOJ. Ferguson would also be required to recruit more African Americans to its police force.

While the city council approved of the settlement, Councilman Wesley Bell asked for a couple of changes after having apparently woken up to the reality of what the agreement could potentially cost the city.

The "monitoring" alone by the DOJ could cost the city around $3.7 million each year for the next three years, or more than $10 million total. Additionally, the terms in the agreement requiring a significant raise for police officers could cost the city approximately $1 million annually.

US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. takes questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice September 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. Holder announced the department's intent to further investigate civil rights violations by the Ferguson, Missouri police department with the possibility of expanding the investigation to other Saint Louis County departments. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images) US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. takes questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice September 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. Holder announced the department's intent to further investigate civil rights violations by the Ferguson, Missouri police department with the possibility of expanding the investigation to other Saint Louis County departments. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

While $10 million over the next three years is great if you want to grow government, the cost of DOJ monitoring plus significant pay raises for police officers of $1 million annually is a good way to bankrupt a city.

Not appreciating Ferguson’s non-compliance to the DOJ’s 131-page consent decree, the City of Ferguson is now being sued for civil rights violations.

Again, no stranger to wordiness, the DOJ filed a 56-page civil lawsuit against the city alleging that, “18 months after the police shooting of Michael Brown, the city’s police and court system continue to violate black residents’ civil rights.”

I find this statement by the DOJ odd since the grand jury didn’t indict the police officer involved and the DOJ’s investigations after the Michael Brown shooting didn’t turn up any evidence of a crime.

The statement in the lawsuit is reminiscent of the statement made by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to the youth of Baltimore after filing charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, when she said, “Last but certainly not least, to the youth of the city. I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment … You’re at the forefront of this cause and as young people, our time is now.”

Both statements seem contrary to seeking justice "for all."

The recent DOJ lawsuit also alleges "unconstitutional patterns and practices" and that the city’s focus on revenue is the reason that policies have never been changed to try and "decrease or eliminate police misconduct, including discriminatory policing, unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, and the use of unreasonable force."

The statement regarding the "focus of revenue" being the reason that the unconstitutional practices have not changed seems harsh since the DOJ admits in its lawsuit that the city has made some reforms since the DOJ initially became involved. The DOJ states however, that these reforms are insufficient to eliminate the problems.

Apparently, if a city isn’t willing to meet the financial demands set forth by the DOJ "for monitoring" then this will be used against the city as proof that "the financial well-being of the city" caused them to allow their police force to commit unconstitutional acts? I guess the city’s objection to possibly going bankrupt just won’t fly with the DOJ.

I’d say the City of Ferguson just got smacked hard by the DOJ and may have to just throw up their hands in surrender because the DOJ has a long history of getting what it wants.

According to one estimate, the DOJ conducted approximately 20 broad civil rights investigations of police departments when Eric Holder was attorney general. Most of these investigations ended with police departments giving in and changing practices. Most of them probably couldn't afford to fight the charges and bankrupt their city.

Perhaps once the DOJ is done with Ferguson it will have time to investigate other possible constitutional violations involving emails and executive orders. Just a thought.

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