Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Justice Department: Police Overreach Is Not Just a Ferguson Problem

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Justice Department: Police Overreach Is Not Just a Ferguson Problem

Article excerpt

A final version of the Justice Department report on the law enforcement response to the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last summer was released Thursday, underscoring mistakes made by the city's police department in attempting to quell the unrest.

In June, a draft of the report was released that painted a picture of a community tainted by a negative relationship with police and authoritative overreach by law enforcement that infringed on protesters' First Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.

The report gives a detailed chronology of the 17 days of protests and violence that followed the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year- old Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In painstaking detail, the report delves into the police department's missteps immediately after the shooting including infamously keeping Brown's body under white sheets for hours and withholding information from increasingly angry community members.

It then goes into various other mistakes made by law enforcement officials that raised tensions among police officers and the community, including the improper use of police dogs, armored vehicles, and snipers. Additional missteps like some officers removing their nameplates and various entanglements about authority and jurisdiction reduced the ability of law enforcement to effectively respond to incidents that required their attention.

The Ferguson shooting, along with other deaths of blacks at the hands of white police officers, sparked a national dialogue about police-community relations and the role of race in policing.

"In many ways, the demonstrations that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown were more than a moment of discord in one small community; they have become part of a national movement to reform our criminal justice system and represent a new civil rights movement," Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services office, wrote in an introduction to the report.

The negative perception of law enforcement based on recent publicized incidents of police brutality has filtered through to the entire nation. …

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