Racist jokes prompt dismissal, 2 probes in Ferguson Police Dept.
One Ferguson Police Department employee has been fired and two others have been placed on leave after federal authorities identified them as responsible for writing racist emails, the mayor of the city said.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles made the announcement at a Wednesday evening press conference and the decision came after the US Justice Department tagged the three specifically for having made racist remarks in city emails.
The fallout comes as the Justice Department issued a 100-page report that found systematic racial discrimination by the Ferguson police officials and the court system against African Americans. Mayor Knowles said the city “must do better”to address racism.
“We must do better not only as a city but as a state and a country. We must all work to address issues of racial disparity in all aspects of our society,” he said.
Knowles said the two city workers on administrative leave were under investigation.
— SpeedReads (@SpeedReads) March 5, 2015
The DOJ report cited racist emails exchanged by Ferguson city employees as examples of a culture that supported discriminatory behavior.
“Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias, as well as other forms of bias. Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined,” the report said.
There were no accounts of senior officials asking others to stop sending the emails or any indication of reports being made about inappropriate emails.
– A November 2008 email about Barack Obama, then the president-elect, wondered “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
– One March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
– An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
– Meanwhile, a June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, last, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
– Another email, from October 2011, included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama's High School Reunion.”
– A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
According to the DOJ report, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of the Ferguson patrol and court operations.
A DOJ official told reporters that some of the emails were sent by people still involved in helping to negotiate a settlement with the agency. The DOJ declined to identify them.
Regarding the discoveries made by federal officials, Attorney General Eric Holder said that a “highly toxic environment” existed between Ferguson police officers and the city's African American residents even before the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The unarmed teenager was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in a confrontation that set of weeks of protests locally and nationwide.
“It's not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,” Holder said.
He added that excessive force was overwhelmingly used against African American residents, noting that only African Americans were bit by police dogs. Holder said there was “no alternative explanation” except racial bias exists to explain it.
Holder also said Ferguson's police department violated residents’ First Amendment rights to record the activities of officers, regularly conducted illegal searches, unlawfully detained citizens and competed with each other to “see who can issue the largest number of citations in a single stop.”
He said the city’s municipal courts and local government “relies on the police force to serve essentially as a collection agency.”