Ferguson police report: 5 examples of abuse of power

The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report about the Ferguson, Mo., police force on Wednesday, accusing it of engaging in practices that are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Black residents targeted for harassment by police, U.S. Justice Department report says

Police watch the street as protesters gather outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo, in November 2014. The U.S. Justice Department cleared a former Ferguson police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old, but also issued a scathing report calling for sweeping changes in city law-enforcement practices it called discriminatory and unconstitutional. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report about the Ferguson, Mo., police force on Wednesday, accusing it of engaging in practices that are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The department actually issued two reports, one that said it won't prosecute a former Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old. However, another report looked into the police department itself.

It found that the shooting occurred in an environment of systematic mistreatment of blacks, in which officials swapped racist emails and jokes without punishment and black residents were disproportionately stopped and searched, fined for petty offences and subjected to excessive police force.

Here are some examples highlighted in the report:

1. Officer swears at bus patron 

A black man said he was sitting at a bus stop when a patrol car abruptly pulled up in front of him and the officer inside rolled down his window and addressed him as follows: Lieutenant: Get over here. Bus patron: Me? Lieutenant: Get the f*** over here. Yeah, you. Bus patron: Why? What did I do? Lieutenant: Give me your ID. Bus patron: Why? Lieutenant: Stop being a smart ass and give me your ID. The lieutenant ran the man’s name for warrants. Finding none, he returned the ID and said, "Get the hell out of my face." 

2. Man accused of being a pedophile

An officer detained a 32-year-old black man who was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball. The report said the officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, because his tinted windows were darker than permitted under Ferguson’s code.

However, without cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, wouldn't allow him to use his cellphone, ordered him out his car for a pat-down and asked to search his car. When he refused, citing his constitutional rights, the officer reportedly pointed a gun at his head and arrested him. He was charged with eight different counts, including making a false declaration for initially providing the short form of his first name — "Mike" instead of "Michael."

3. Man arrested for trying to show ID

Police responded to a police station to take custody of a person wanted on a state warrant. When they arrived, they encountered a different man — not the subject of the warrant — who happened to be leaving the station. Having nothing to connect the man to the warrant subject, other than his presence at the station, the officers stopped him and asked that he identify himself.

The report said that the man asserted his rights, asking the officers "Why do you need to know?" and declined to be frisked. When the man then extended his identification toward the officers, at their request, police believed his hand motion was an attempted assault and took him to the ground. He was arrested on two counts of failure to comply and two counts of resisting arrest.

4. Man arrested for dancing in the street

An officer stopped a 20-year-old black man for dancing in the middle of a residential street. The officer obtained the man’s identification and ran his name for warrants. Finding none, he told the man he was free to go. The man responded with profanities. When the officer told him to watch his language and reminded him that he was not being arrested, the man continued using profanity and was arrested for "manner of walking in roadway."

5. 'You're going to jail because your wife keeps running her mouth'

A black couple who had taken their children to play at the park allowed their small children to urinate in the bushes next to their parked car, according to the report. An officer stopped them, threatened to cite them for allowing the children to "expose themselves," and checked the father for warrants. When the mother asked if the officer had to detain the father in front of the children, the officer turned to the father and said, "You’re going to jail because your wife keeps running her mouth."

With files from The Associated Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.