By Mark Wachtler
March 17, 2015. Ferguson, MO. (ONN) When the US surpassed Iran to become the country that imprisons more of its own citizens than any nation on Earth, many people including this author took it as proof that America is a police state. When the Justice Department released its report on Ferguson, Missouri last week, it included the most damning evidence yet. What the details expose is a police force, City Hall and court system systematically robbing and terrorizing an entire city.
A Police State means more corporate prison profits for Republicans and more government employees for Democrats. Image courtesy of BeforeItsNews.com.
In the seven months since Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, the US Justice Department has been accumulating details surrounding the incident. It also heeded the desperate pleas of city residents who insisted their local police force was out of control and little more than a state-sponsored crime ring. Facts discovered and published by the DoJ give those seemingly unbelievable accusations some serious credence.
3 in 4 residents have outstanding criminal warrants
According to the 102-page Justice Department report on Ferguson, the town has 21,000 residents. Of those, 16,000 have outstanding criminal warrants. That’s 76% of the population. The enlightening statistics don’t end there either. Ferguson residents had 33,000 outstanding warrants, which comes to more than 1.5 for every single citizen, and 4 warrants for every household in Ferguson. Is Ferguson, Missouri the most evil place on Earth or is it a police state? It seems like the answer has to be one or the other.
These shocking statistics aren’t new, not even for Ferguson. Back in September 2014, one month after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the New York Times went to Ferguson to investigate the unbelievable numbers. The publication’s reporters showed up at the local municipal cashier window to see who showed up to pay fines. One of the first they encountered was a young woman with an outstanding warrant over a $250 traffic ticket. The Ferguson court had increased it to $800.
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Another individual was there to pay a $102 fine for having a small blue light on the back of his car near his license plate. He told the Times how he just finished serving two separate 90-day jail sentences, one for failure to pay a single traffic ticket and one for falling behind on his child support payments. On this day, the judge threw out the ticket for the small blue light ruling that no law had been broken. Even though he was just ruled innocent, he was still forced to pay the court costs. And if he didn’t have the money, he would have had a warrant issued for his arrest.
The next people the publication encountered at the Ferguson court cashier window were a married couple, both with outstanding criminal warrants. The wife was there to pay off extra fines for an original traffic ticket. She missed her court date and was immediately issued an arrest warrant. Her husband was ticketed for having an expired license plate. He showed up to court fully ready to plead guilty and pay the $80 fine. But he didn’t bring the $20 in court costs so a warrant for his arrest was issued.
On Friday, the Huffington Post became one of the few establishment media outlets to report the staggering statistics from the Justice Department report. Their investigators expose how over the past couple years, the tactic of writing frivolous tickets and piling on exorbitant fees and fines was common practice. Rank and file police officers were routinely pressured to write more tickets and make more arrests.
The publication writes, ‘The Ferguson courts appear to work as an orchestrated racket to extract money from the poor. The thousands upon thousands of warrants that are issued, according to the DOJ, are “not to protect public safety but rather to facilitate fine collection.”’ To illustrate just how unprecedented the statistics are, the account goes on to compare Ferguson to a well-known city like Boston where 2,300 criminal warrants were issued last year among a population of 645,000. By comparison, Ferguson issued roughly four-times as many warrants for a population one-thirtieth the size.
The Huff Post piece also revealed some of the criminal offenses involved and found what they termed ‘Orwelian’ infractions that included, “Manner of Walking in Roadway”, “High Grass and Weeds”, ‘14 kinds of parking violations’ and a crime ominously titled, “Failure to obey”. After looking at the voluminous backlog of outstanding warrants, the authors conclude that the local Ferguson government is little more than a criminal enterprise itself.
‘This complete penetration of policing into everyday life establishes a world of unceasing terror and violence,’ the authors warn, ‘When everyone is a criminal by default, police are handed an extraordinary amount of discretionary power. “Discretion” may sound like an innocuous or even positive policy, but its effect is to make every single person’s freedom dependent on the mercy of individual officers. There are no more laws, there are only police.’
Law-and-order conservatives horrified
When details of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson became clear, Whiteout Press took a very unpopular position. Republicans and conservatives rushed to defend the police while Democrats and progressives immediately took up Brown’s banner. Each side insisted the other was defending violent thugs terrorizing the community. We at Whiteout Press cautiously asserted that both sides were correct. Both sides were violent thugs terrorizing the community.
Apparently, while the Wall Street wing of the GOP stands by Ferguson police and city officials, the Constitutional and religious wings of the Party are having second thoughts. A report from RedState.com two days ago reveals the deep divisions among Republicans and conservatives. ‘It’s unfortunate, the way news is consumed and interpreted in the age of twitter,’ the account from the popular conservative site begins, ‘Everyone feels tremendous pressure to form an opinion quickly and state it loudly and with certainty. Once this has been done, people are highly resistant to changing their minds and they become impervious to new evidence.’
The outlet goes on to concede, ‘Perhaps nowhere has this phenomenon been more obvious, or regrettable, than in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown. Interpreting the news out of Ferguson has become a part of ideological tribalism in which, if you are a conservative you stand for the Ferguson PD and if you are a liberal you stand against them.’
The author goes even further by confessing that the evidence, ‘strongly suggests that the Ferguson PD - as with many other municipal police departments in the country - truly is out of control, in that it recklessly violates the constitutional rights of the citizens of Ferguson and does so in a manner that has a clearly disproportionate impact on minorities.’
“revenue generating machine”
The grassroots Republican news outlet RedState.com and its author Leon Wolf summarize some of the revelations after reading the 102-page Justice Department report. The first section is bluntly titled, ‘The Ferguson Police Department acts almost exclusively as a revenue generating machine for the city.’
The account expands on that accusation explaining, ‘Perhaps the most damning portion of the DOJ report is the beginning, which lays out in painstaking detail (consisting entirely of information pulled from the City of Ferguson’s records) that the FPD’s primary purpose in Ferguson was to generate revenue for the city’s budget. The report contains a shocking volume of documentary evidence, including emails, that Ferguson’s police supervisors, including the City Manager, repeatedly hounded Ferguson officers to increase their ticket fines without regard to whether the tickets they were writing were justified.’ The numbers back up the charges showing that from 2010 to 2014, Ferguson police nearly tripled ticket revenue from $1.3 million to over $3 million annually.
Another thing the author points to as evidence of terror tactics by a police state are the police officers’ own police reports. They cite seemingly countless instances where Ferguson police use attack dogs and tasers on citizens for no apparent reason, even according to the official police reports. Many of the examples of police brutality occurred while the accused suspect was already in custody and in a cell.
The conservative outlet writes, ‘By far the most damning aspect of the FPD’s use of force is the clear and convincing evidence that they have utterly failed to supervise their officers concerning their use of force or to correct any instances of excessive use of force at all. Even more damning, there is convincing evidence that the FPD has failed to properly document its use of force at all as required by their own policy.’ One glaring example is the FPD policy that any officer accused of police brutality with the rank of Sergeant or above, is empowered to review and rule on his or her own guilt.
The above statistics and examples are by no means the only evidence of a police state in Ferguson, Missouri. What’s even more frightening is that Ferguson, Missouri isn’t the only municipality in America that is being victimized by an out-of-control local government and its police force. It’s not even the worst example. For years we’ve been told that America imprisons more of its own citizens than any country on Earth. Now we know how and why. It isn’t because of the country’s drug laws, as we’ve always been told. It’s because local governments and their employees have a tyrannical need to increase their numbers, their power and their paychecks.