Ferguson, Missouri Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned on Wednesday, according to law enforcement. Jackson, who was at the center of much of the controversy following the shooting of Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson, is stepping down in shame amidst allegations of widespread institutional racism in his department.
The Justice Department stated that evidence against Wilson fell below the high bar set for federal prosecutors who would want to secure a conviction, but issued a scathing indictment of the Ferguson Police Department.
The Justice Department’s report revealed rampant racism and corruption. “The City budgets for sizeable increases in municipal fines and fees each year, exhorts police and court staff to deliver those revenue increases, and closely monitors whether those increases are achieved,” the report reads. “City officials routinely urge Chief Jackson to generate more revenue through enforcement.”
The report found that African-Americans account for the majority of stops, citations, and arrests despite representing a much smaller portion of the population:
“Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows African Americans account for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67 percent of Ferguson’s population. African Americans are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race-based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated, but are found in possession of contraband 26 percent less often than white drivers, suggesting officers are impermissibly considering race as a factor when determining whether to search.”
African-Americans were cited for 95 percent of “manner of walking in roadway” charges — the same reason Michael Brown was stopped by Officer Wilson, in the first place.
Employees seem to routinely send racist e-mails with no repercussions, and the entire department is a cesspool. It is so bad, in fact, that Eric Holder is prepared to completely disband the Ferguson PD if major changes are not made.
“Stunningly inept” Jackson was repeatedly asked to resign following Brown’s death, but refused to step down each time. A Washington Post editorial criticized the police chief for making matters worse:
In the days after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, Jackson made a volatile situation worse. First, he contributed to the official information void by withholding Darren Wilson’s name as the officer who shot Brown. Then, six days later, Jackson released Wilson’s name along with a time line of events and a police report and video of a “strong arm robbery” of a convenience store. The release of that video (against the wishes of the DOJ) and Jackson’s multiple reversals on other information he revealed that day reignited the violence that had gripped the area and shocked the nation two days earlier. As a result, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called astate of emergency and instituted a curfew.
Two Ferguson police officers quit after they were outed in the Justice Department report as for sending baldly racist e-mails on city computers. But Jackson is still there. Last October, The Post reported that law enforcement sources were saying Jackson would resign. But he’s still there. Asked last week whether the Ferguson police department should be disbanded, given DOJ’s report on the tainted force, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “If that’s what’s necessary, then we are prepared to do that.” Yes, it is necessary. And it can and must start with Jackson’s firing.
Perhaps it is time that the Ferguson Police Department went the way of Darren Wilson’s first police job in Jennings, which was deemed unsalvageable after similar corruption and racism was discovered to be so pervasive that the only solution was to “burn it down” and disband the entire department.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.