Ferguson City Council Accepts Consent Decree Worked Out With Justice Department – LAURA WAGNER Updated March 15, 20169:21 PM ET Published March 15, 20169:13 PM ET

Ferguson City Council's acceptance of the consent decree means the city retains control of the police and courts, but also pays for an independent monitor to ensure the reforms are implemented.

Ferguson City Council’s acceptance of the consent decree means the city retains control of the police and courts, but also pays for an independent monitor to ensure the reforms are implemented. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A month ago, after refusing to accept a deal its negotiators made with the Justice Department, the Ferguson, Mo., City Council has accepted the plan, designed to overhaul the city’s courts and police to protect citizens’ rights.

“Tonight, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, took an important step towards guaranteeing all of its citizens the protections of our Constitution,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that they have approved the consent decree, a document designed to provide the framework needed to institute constitutional policing in Ferguson, and look forward to filing it in court in the coming days and beginning to work with them towards implementation.”

But in the St. Louis suburb where the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement, the city’s approval was granted reluctantly. Tuesday’s unanimous vote in favor of the plan comes after the council first voted not to approve the decree, which had been negotiated extensively between city officials and the Justice Department. The council said part of the plan would be too costly. Knowing that rejecting the plan could result in a lawsuit against the city, the council voted on Feb. 9 to amend the plan instead of passing it.

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Federal Ferguson Review Finds More Than 100 Lessons For Police – BRAKKTON BOOKER SEPTEMBER 02, 2015 7:49 PM ET

A new Justice Department report gave a total of 113 lessons learned and a half-dozen themes that "permeated all aspects of the police response" during the height of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new Justice Department report gave a total of 113 lessons learned and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response” during the height of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Obama administration Wednesday issued an after-action assessment of the police response to the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., that erupted last year following the killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black resident of the city, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

The report, conducted by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, focused on the 17-day time frame between Brown’s death and his funeral. The assessment does not provide a lot of new information, but it does provide greater insight into how policing tactics and strategy unfolded during that time when the atmosphere between law enforcement and demonstrators was especially tense.

There were a total of 113 lessons and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response,” according to the report. Some of those included inconsistent leadership, lack of understanding of community concerns with law enforcement and use of “ineffective and inappropriate” tactics that escalated instead of diminishing tensions.

The report made clear it was not casting fault with a particular law enforcement department.

“The purpose of this assessment was to objectively catalogue observations and findings, not place blame or levy accusations against the agencies assessed and their personnel.”

"The use of military weapons and sniper deployment atop military vehicles was inappropriate, inflamed tensions, and created fear among demonstrators," the Department of Justice says.

Investigators found that more than 50 different law enforcement agencies were involved at the height of the response. This led to confusion, questions of which agency was in charge and some “inconsistency of policy applications.”

The report found both the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments used canine units for crowd control at the homicide location on Aug. 9, the day Brown was killed, inappropriately. The canines were used within “accepted policing practices” for tracking suspects on three other occasions.

Militarization tactics during the demonstrations were also called into question by the report, specifically one known as the overwatch tactic, in which officers used rifle sights to survey the crowd from positions atop tactical vehicles.

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One year after Michael Brown’s killing, his mother vows to ‘never forgive’ – by Tony Harris — August 5, 2015 9:45AM ET Updated 5:26PM ET & Philip J. Victor

Al Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Michael Brown’s mother 8:12

Al Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Michael Brown’s mother 8:12

The mother of Michael Brown says she will “never forgive” the “cold and malicious” police officer who shot and killed her son nearly one year ago in Ferguson, Missouri.

“He wouldn’t even admit what he did was wrong. He wouldn’t admit he had no reason to do what he did,” Lezley McSpadden said of former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. “I’ll never forgive him.”

McSpadden said of Wilson: “He’s evil, his acts were devilish.”

Wilson killed Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, after stopping him because he was walking in the street, not on the sidewalk. The killing of Brown, an unarmed black teen who, according to some accounts, had his hands in the air at the time of his death, by a white police officer sparked widespread protest and renewed debate over police targeting of black men.

McSpadden’s comments to Al Jazeera followed an interview with Wilson published by The New Yorker, in which he admitted that, aside from ongoing litigation brought by the Brown family, he seldom thought of the 18-year-old Brown.

“Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point,” Wilson said, before adding that he believed Brown didn’t have a proper “upbringing.”

McSpadden responded to Wilson’s comments by saying the officer was the one who “didn’t have the right upbringing.”

“Because those are words that you just don’t use, especially after you took somebody’s life and you know you had no reason to,” she said. “But he can’t hurt me with his words. What he did last year hurt me really bad, so his words mean nothing to me.”

Wilson, who scuffled with Brown before the shooting, told authorities that he feared for his life during the confrontation and fired his gun in self-defense. Witnesses, however, contend that Brown was in a nonthreatening position when Wilson fired the fatal shots.

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When will the race debate in America end? Toni Morrison says it’s far from over. – Updated by Rachel Huggins on April 26, 2015, 2:10 p.m. ET

That uncomfortable, cringeworthy conversation on race that everyone always talks about? Toni Morrison wants to have it — and isn’t pulling any punches.

Toni Morrison speaks during an event at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University on September 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. — Kris Connor/Getty Images

In an interview with The Telegraph’s Gaby Wood on Morrison’s new novel, God Help The Child, the Nobel prize-winning author explained when we’ll know the conversation on race can come to an end.

“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race,’” she said. “This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back. And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’, I will say yes.”

Morrison’s remarks reflect the frustration and growing furor over the highly publicized string of unarmed black men who’ve died at the hands of white officers, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; to Eric Garner in New York City; to Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Toni Morrison was right: African Americans don’t trust cops to dole out equal justice

African Americans make up only 13 percent of the US population, but are killed by police at disproportionately higher rates than other races. Data suggests that police are 21 times more likely to kill black teens than white teens.

So Morrison’s dismal view isn’t at all surprising. In fact, it’s echoed throughout the black community. Take Ferguson, for instance. The protests that broke out after Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson last August didn’t occur in a vacuum. A March Department of Justice report showed the deep roots of residents’ frustration: city officials balance their local budget by targeting low-income black residents with fines and court fees and police disproportionately arrest and use force on black residents.

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Americans are more worried about terrorism, race, and immigration than they were last year

Is America more xenophobic than it was a year ago?

That’s the implication of a new Gallup poll tracking which issues Americans are more concerned about now than they were in 2014:

gallup poll march 2015 crop


Add them all together, and you get a national mood of xenophobia and fear — the same national mood that turned the runup to the 2014 elections into a sustained panic over ISIS and Ebola.

What’s much harder to parse is how much of this is grounded in reactions to specific news stories, and how much is a general gestalt. How much of the increased concern over “race relations” is a reaction to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers, or the killings of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos? How much of the concern over “terrorism” is a specific reaction to news stories about ISIS?

It’s hard to untangle the two. But it’s a little easier when looking at changes in public opinion from month to month — which helps show how particular news stories affected the American mood.

What sparked the rise in concern about race and immigration?

Gallup is comparing these poll results to what Americans were thinking about in March 2014. And a lot has changed since then. Luckily, Gallup also tracks what Americans think is the “most important issue” on a monthly basis.

Concern about “racism/race relations,” for example, spiked in early December 2014 — right after grand juries declined to indict the police officers who had killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Prior to December, only 1 percent of Americans had named it as their biggest concern; that month, 13 percent did. But much of that spike in interest evaporated: in subsequent months, 3 to 5 percent of Americans have named race relations as the country’s biggest problem.

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Ferguson city manager John Shaw resigns – BBC News 10 March 2015 Last updated at 23:02 ET

The chief executive of the US city of Ferguson, Missouri has resigned after a federal report alleged widespread racial bias in the city police department and court system.

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

As Ferguson’s city manager, John Shaw, 39, held the legal power to make personnel and policy changes in the police department.

The city council voted unanimously to accept his resignation on Tuesday.

The city’s municipal judge has also resigned as a result of the report.

The city came under investigation after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August, sparking weeks of unrest.

A St Louis County grand jury and the US Justice Department found that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defence when he shot Brown.

But a US Department of Justice investigation found overwhelming racial bias in the town’s policing practices. The report, released last week, detailed how Ferguson officials used the city’s police and court system to generate revenue.

Mayor James KnowlesFerguson Mayor James Knowles has been the public face of the city government

After Brown’s death, Mayor James Knowles has been the public face and voice of Ferguson’s city government.

But Mr Knowles is a part-time employee while Mr Shaw ran day-to-day operations of the city full-time.

“I believe that the city of Ferguson has the resolve to overcome the challenges it faces in the coming months and emerge as a stronger community for it,” Mr Shaw said in a statement.

The Justice Department report repeatedly cited Mr Shaw’s role in encouraging his police force to aggressively ticket motorists as a means to generate revenue.

Mr Shaw said in a statement on Tuesday that his office “never instructed the police department to target African Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor”.


Holder: Ferguson must take ‘immediate action’ on race bias – BBC News 4 March 2015 Last updated at 21:15 ET

US Attorney General Eric Holder says leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, must take “immediate, wholesale” action after a report of widespread racial bias in its law enforcement.

Police officers and National Guard soldiers watch protesters gathered to demand justice for the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri in this file photo taken November 28, 2014.

Police officers were criticised for their reaction to protests in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown

In what Mr Holder himself called a “searing” report, the justice department found a “disturbing and unconstitutional” pattern of abuse.

The inquiry began after the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by police.

His death sparked nationwide protests over police treatment of minorities.

In response to the report, the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, admitted “we must do better” to address racial disparities but he said some initiatives were already under way.

One police official has been fired and another two suspended after the investigation uncovered racist emails.

A separate investigation has ended with no federal civil rights charges against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who killed Brown.

A Missouri grand jury also declined to charge him with murder in November.

“Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson,” Mr Holder said in a statement at the justice department.

Ferguson traffic statistics

Black people are disproportionately stopped by police, even allowing for their greater numbers in the city

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A Look Back At The Violence In Ferguson: Talking Heads – Vice News Published on Feb 23, 2015

VICE News and the New York Review of Books have partnered to create Talking Heads, a series about the big issues of the day as seen by the Review’s distinguished contributors.

In this episode, Darryl Pinckney discusses his essay “In Ferguson.” He visited Ferguson, Missouri, in November, when a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The dissatisfaction Pinckney felt as he followed news coverage of events in the area compelled him to visit and bear witness. Once on the ground, he discovered that despite sometimes violent expressions of anger within the community, the danger he felt was always from the police.

VICE News invited Pinckney to our studios to discuss the civil rights movement awakened by Ferguson.

Guns, cameras, action: Texas’ open carry cop-watchers tote AK-47s – by Sarah Hoye January 22, 2015 4:15PM ET

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at Jan 23, 2015 12.59

ARLINGTON, Texas – Kory Watkins’ police scanner crackled to life. He rushed to a traffic stop in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, sprang from the car and darted toward the flashing police lights and started recording video. Fellow members of his North Texas cop-watch group trailed behind.

Groups that monitor the police have attracted more attention nationwide since white officers killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. But Watkins is an unlikely ally of the movement. He carries his AK-47 assault rifle while on patrol.

Kory Watkins of Open Carry Tarrant County

Kory Watkins of Open Carry Tarrant County records a police stop on his smartphone. America Tonight

“Why not?” he told America Tonight. “It’s my right to do so and I want to exert my freedoms in the most powerful way and in the biggest way possible. That way, more freedoms are created by doing so.”

Watkins, a bartender by day, is the coordinator for Open Carry Tarrant County, a hybrid of the cop-watching and open carry movements. The small band of gun-toting Texans warns motorists of DUI checkpoints and speed traps. They also show up at police traffic stops, record the proceedings – including any confrontations with officers – and post the videos on social media.

“More now than ever, we need police accountability,” said Watkins, a father of two. “We need people out there reporting, because it’s not just here in our area; it’s all over the country.”

As the group sees it, police are agents of the government and openly carrying guns is a statement of individual liberty. For Open Carry Tarrant County’s members, monitoring cops and expanding gun rights are missions that go hand-in-hand. In Texas, it’s legal to openly carry a long gun like an assault rifle, but not handguns.

“I feel violated,” Watkins said about the handgun rule. “I think people have just forgotten about what we’re supposed to be about here in America: liberty, freedom, the land of the free, the home of the brave. And it’s not that anymore.”

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Vernā Myers: How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them – Filmed November 2014 at TEDxBeaconStreet

Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we’ve seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.