Confirming expectations, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will not file federal civil rights charges against the police officer who shot Michael Brown following an altercation on the streets of Ferguson, Mo. [CBS] Contrary to a visual theme repeated before countless news cameras through weeks of protests, “no, Michael Brown’s hands probably were not up” at the time of the shooting [Wesley Lowery, Washington Post] In the end, “Hands Up — Don’t Shoot” 2014’s iconic protest gesture, was founded in the self-serving, oft-repeated eyewitness account of Brown chum/soon-established-robbery-accomplice Dorrian Johnson. And he was credible why?
At the same time, the report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice makes clear (AP, WaPo) that the Ferguson, Mo. police department was up to its hip in bad practices, ranging from the rights-violative (knowingly baseless arrests and stops, arresting persons for recording police actions) to the cynical (“revenue policing” aimed at squeezing money out of the populace over subjective/petty offenses that include “manner of walking.”)
Whether these bad local police practices are a suitable subject for federal oversight, and where the actually existing U.S. Department of Justice gets off complaining about high-handed and revenue-driven law enforcement given its own sorry track record, are other questions. But any view of Ferguson’s troubles in the back-view mirror should now acknowledge two things: 1) many people rushed to assume Officer Darren Wilson’s guilt who should have known better; 2) even so, there was much to protest in Ferguson law enforcement. (cross-posted, with a new concluding paragraph, at Cato at Liberty).
More links of interest: Don’t miss Conor Friedersdorf’s “parade of horrors” summary of the worst police abuses bared in the DoJ report [The Atlantic]; Alex Tabarrok on the Ferguson “kleptocracy” [Marginal Revolution] and Stephen Carter on “Ferguson and Its Money-Hungry Police” [Bloomberg View]; Scott Greenfield on whether or why to trust in the USDOJ.