Police union leaders and city .officials in Ferguson, Missouri, have continued to kick back against a damning report from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that revealed routine violation of black residents’ constitutional rights, as the city prepares to negotiate a settlement with the federal government.
Last Friday, Ferguson mayor James Knowles III told the Huffington Post that while the report had “merits”, he believed it also placed too much of an emphasis on race relations in the city.
“Regardless of the merits of a lot of the things that happened in the report, I think it’s unfortunate that the Department of Justice always tried to narrow it down to race,” Knowles said. “I think there are things in the report that were a miscarriage of justice, but every instance in the report they tried to make it about race. I don’t think that’s fair.”
The DOJ report contained overwhelming statistical and physical evidence of racial bias throughout the city’s criminal justice system.
According to 2010 census data, Ferguson’s population of around 21,000 is 67% African American. Between 2012 and 2014, 93% of all arrests there were of black people, and nearly 90% of use-of-force incidents were against black residents.
A raft of resignations and removals followed, including city manager John Shaw and police chief Thomas Jackson. Protesters called for Knowles to stand down and for the police department to be disbanded.
Knowles, who works as a part-time mayor and is paid a monthly stipend of $350, told the Huffington Post he would resist any move to disband the police but also argued that his power to instigate reform had been overblown in the media.
At a pro-police rally in St Louis on Saturday, Jeff Roorda, the controversial police union representative who has been an outspoken advocate of the white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014, dismissed the DOJ findings.
Source: The Guardian | Oliver Laughland in New York