The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one-two punch.
The DoJ's scathing report [105 pg pdf] on the pattern and practices of unconstitutional policing in Ferguson, MO was released pretty much simultaneously with the failure of the DoJ to find fault [86 pg document file] with the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, the singularity which has led to months and months of protest actions all across the country, and what's called a "national conversation" about the problems of racist policing and violent cops.
One scathing report after another; one policeman-killer after another allowed to walk free.
It's quite a pattern, and there are reasons for it.
The dissonance is deliberate.
Yes, the police in Ferguson and many other places around the country are racists and practice racist policing. There are so many places where this is true, we might say it is all but universal. Police best practices presume the guile and the guilt of an array of minority and poverty stricken sectors of the population as a matter of course.
Statistically, the crime and criminality of minority and poor sectors of the population appears to be a fact. Thus the presumption is said to be justified. But when the statistics are broken down, it becomes clear that the presumption of guile and guilt is self fulfilling in that police interest and action is concentrated in minority communities, poor communities, marginal communities, and in many cases, police create the crime they then suppress and profit from. It's all quite circular.
When the DoJ investigates and declares a police department to have a pattern and practice of "unconstitutional policing" -- including racist policing -- it is merely pointing to the obvious. In the case of Ferguson, nearly every complaint we've been hearing in the media about the FPD is validated by the DoJ report. The local police operate as a racket, extorting money from the people, primarily the black residents of Ferguson, to fund police and city operations. It's deliberate intent every step of the way. It involves violence as well as more subtle coercion. It's been going on a long time. It is racist at its core.
Anyone who's been following the story is not surprised by these findings. We've been hearing and reading about it for months. Anybody who is familiar with the way St. Louis and the County work is familiar with the patterns and practices detailed in the Ferguson report. It's the same throughout the County. It's monstrous. And according to the DoJ, it's unconstitutional.
On the other hand, the white folks are quite satisfied, it would seem, and want nothing to change.
Similar patterns and practices are found all over the country, but perhaps the most egregious examples are found in the South -- where cities and towns in many cases have always worked this way -- and in the Border regions, such as St. Louis and Baltimore and so forth.
I've been calling it "Negro Farming" for some time, the idea being that black residents of these towns and cities are regarded as a cash crop, to be farmed and harvested of whatever money can be squeezed out of them. That's their chief -- in many cases their only -- value to the Powers That Be, and they, like any other crop, have no say in the matter.
I was thinking about this the other day in the context of what I know about city managers and their thinking. I've only had experience in this field in Sacramento where working on reform of a violent (though not particularly murderous) police force required dealing with the city manager and his office. Like most other cities, the city manager of Sacramento is in charge of the police department.
What I learned very quickly is that the city manager's office categorizes the population according to their worth to the city -- ie: how much revenue they produce, or contrariwise, how much of a cost burden they are to the city.
The city manager's constant goal is to maximize the revenue value and minimize the cost burden of the population. They segment the population by district, by age, race and gender, by income, and by occupation -- among other categories. As a rule well off white people are considered "contributors" to the civic enterprise (oh, yes, the city is itself an "enterprise" with many subsidiary enterprises all of which are treated as revenue sources or cost burdens). Well off white people are considered contributors because they own property and/or businesses which are taxed, generally quite modestly, but taxed just the same. They produce a reliable revenue stream.
On the other hand, poor people, people of color, the marginal, the mentally ill, the addicted, and so forth are almost universally considered revenue drains, costs in other words, and in every civic enterprise I'm familiar with, costs must be contained -- unless there is an off-setting revenue stream. That stream can come from an outside source -- say state or federal funding for programs or prisons -- or it can be extracted through fines and so forth from the people themselves.
Because the revenues extracted in this manner are not generally reliable, however, the place of the people from whom it is extracted is never equivalent to that of well off white people whose revenue stream is much more reliable.
This is a very simple model of what goes on in most towns and cities where populations are routinely categorized according to their civic value.
But it is the basic model that underpins how Ferguson and surrounding cities treats their populations.
In this model, someone like Mike Brown has no value.
Someone like Darren Wilson does have value.
Thus the dissonance between condemnation of an unconstitutional pattern and practice of policing -- and the failure to find fault with Darren Wilson's actions that hot day in August 2014 when he shot and killed Mike Brown in the streets of Ferguson.
The pattern and practice of policing -- not just in Ferguson but generally -- is justifiably condemned as unconstitutional, but it is based on the civic value of individuals and population segments, and the lower the value, the greater the excuse for use of force, violence and death in dealing with them.
The problems come when the costs of use of force, violence and death outrun the revenues that can be derived from the force and violence. And that's happening in city after city.
Whether it will happen in Ferguson, I don't know. Immense efforts (and expenses) have been made to protect Darren Wilson throughout this episode, efforts and expenses which are continuing. I don't know why he is being protected this way, but he is. The various "exonerations" of his actions that have taken place appear to be intended to limit or eliminate any civil award Mike Brown's family might receive, but even that is not clear. Something is going on behind the scenes in which Darren Wilson is seen as a victim somehow, whereas Mike Brown is being cast as the perpetrator. This has been going on since the killing itself. What actually happened and why is not as important as the narrative competition that's been produced. It's as if Wilson and Brown are proxies for a police/civilian culture clash that can only be resolved in favor of the police.
This is something to keep in mind: DoJ is always going to favor the police, even when they issue their scathing reports. In fact, police departments routinely defy these reports and recommendations. It's cultural. And DoJ has no independent enforcement power over police conduct. Any enforcement must come through the courts, and the courts have almost no enforcement powers independent of the police they are attempting to reform.
Consequently, if the police want to -- or they are directed to by their city managers and police chiefs -- they can and do ignore and defy these scathing reports and recommendations.
DoJ will let them get away with it, may even encourage it clandestinely.
We see it right up front with the Ferguson report and the Wilson matter: clean up your act (if you want) but no one will fault you for killing black people.
Reform itself is not enough.