Justice Department Rejects Civil Rights Charges Against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson

1408390089660_Image_galleryImage_Officer_DARREN_WILSON_picdepartment-of-justice-logo1As expected, the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will not prosecute former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The case followed the same pattern that we saw him the Zimmerman investigation: a premature entry into the case, Attorney General Eric Holder making public comments assuring a federal response, a long investigation, and a leak from the Justice Department preparing people for the rejection of any charges. In both cases, some of us questioned the timing of the entry of the federal investigators and the weak basis for a civil rights investigation. (For a prior column, click here) In the end, the Justice Department found much of the same inconsistencies detailed by the grand jury and the police in the Ferguson case.

The Justice Department found that Wilson’s actions “do not constitute prosecutable violations under the applicable federal criminal rights statute.” Specifically, the report found “no evidence” to disprove Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his safety. Notably, while the state prosecutors were attacked for finding witness testimony to be conflicted and unreliable, the federal investigators found the same thing:

“Although there are several individuals who have stated that Brown held his hands up in an unambiguous sign of surrender prior to Wilson shooting him dead, their accounts do not support a prosecution of Wilson.‎ As detailed throughout this report, some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witness’s own prior statements with no explanation, credible or otherwise, as to why those accounts changed over time.”

It would seem that some of these witnesses were not merely “inconsistent” but lying. However, the end result is the same. There was no basis for prosecution in the case.

ericholderMany viewed the early entry of the federal investigators into the case to be an unjustified and political move by Attorney General Eric Holder. At the time, Holder said he shared the same experience of profiling and abuse at the hands of police. As he did in the Trayvon Martin case, Holder sent in federal civil rights investigators before the initial investigation ended. Such federal investigations are ideally launched after state trials or, at a minimum, after an investigation is complete.

Now Holder is calling to lower the standard for civil rights prosecutions, a very worrisome prospect. Holder was clearly frustrated that he could not prosecute when he disagreed with the state prosecutors. Holder has long been viewed as hostile to federalism principles and this move would further erode the core police powers held by the states. Holder wants less of a barrier to federalizing such crimes — subjecting defendants to two alternative systems for prosecution.

The civil rights prosecutions should remain focused on their original purpose and should satisfy the current standard. The standard proof is high. It requires prosecutors to prove that a person used excessive force, willfully with the knowledge that it was wrong. It is important to remember however that this is just the standard for a civil rights prosecution. The same person is subject to an array of possible local and state charges. The standard reflected an effort to avoid precisely what Holder seems to want: a ready alternative for prosecution when the federal government disagrees with the results of state criminal cases or investigations.

Source: USA Today

64 thoughts on “Justice Department Rejects Civil Rights Charges Against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson”

  1. Wilson at the very least shouldn’t have used deadly force against a perpetrator running away even if that perp turned and charged at him. This perp had no weapon. Wilson had combat training, a Billy club, tazer and other means of taking Mr. Brown down. DOJ, I believe gave him a free pass for the greater good of dismantling this complete evil system. Black voters in places like Ferguson are intimidated and discouraged from running for office or voting. I wonder what compensory packages officers who steps down/resign in Ferguson are being given. Also are the people being reimbursed for the multiple whimsical fines/tickets they were issued and are there records being cleared₩

    1. Jackson

      You do realize that he was not running away but was charging Wilson. Please read the Grand Jury Testimony. There was no hands up don’t shoot it was hands up lets loot

  2. http://www.abqjournal.com/550717/news/exapd-officer-unmasks-culture-of-aggression.html

    Ex-APD officer unmasks ‘culture of aggression’

    March 6, 2015

    “Costales was invited to UNM by American Studies professor David Correia for a class on police violence and social control. Correia was arrested last June after he and a dozen other activists briefly occupied Mayor Richard Berry’s office to protest police brutality. The charges were later dropped.

    The federal investigation of the APD didn’t include the six people killed by police officers since January 2014, including the shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia foothills in March, before the report was released.

    “I think I just witnessed a murder,” Costales recalled saying when he saw the video of the Boyd shooting.

    Costales has spoken out against the APD before, including this year in a pair of scathing reports in two national magazines, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.

    He also testified against two Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies who arrested Al Unser Sr. in 2006, an event Costales described in great detail Thursday. The deputies twisted Unser’s arm and threw him to the ground before arresting him, none of which was necessary or justifiable, he said.

    After his testimony, he said, the police union posted a statement on its website calling him a rat and advising officers that, if he showed up at a scene, they should chase him away.

    Since the DOJ report, Costales said he hears all the time about “the few bad apples” that mar the department’s reputation. In fact, he said, “there are more bad apples than good.” And those good apples are afraid to come forward to report police wrongdoing, he said. Since the federal report last year, the APD has been “putting on a show for the DOJ,” Costales said. “It’s all window dressing.””

  3. My portion of the comment at 1:05 pm:

    It’s time for the good cops — and there are many — to clean house.

    (The rest of it was from the Reuter’s article, just to be clear.)

  4. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/07/us-usa-missouri-shooting-idUSKBN0M21VC20150307

    (Reuters) – President Barack Obama condemned the Missouri city of Ferguson on Friday for “oppressive and abusive” actions against African-Americans that were laid bare in a U.S. Justice Department report accusing police and court officials of racial bias.

    The president’s comments came as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday dismantling the city’s police department was a possibility.

    “We are prepared to use all the power that we have… to ensure that the situation changes there,” Holder said. “That means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.”

    Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said three city workers who demonstrated “egregious racial bias” are no longer employed by the city, and said Ferguson officials are pursuing other reforms to try to reach a settlement with the Justice Department.

    City spokesman Jeff Small said police officers Rick Henke and William Mudd resigned on Thursday and Ferguson’s top court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, was fired after the release of the Justice Department report on Wednesday.

    The Justice Department said it found that the mostly white police force routinely targeted African-Americans for arrests and ticketing, in part to raise revenue for the city through fines and fees. It found a pattern of officers using excessive force and illegally arresting people without cause, deploying attack dogs and tasers on unarmed people “unreasonably.”

    “What we saw was that the Ferguson Police Department in conjunction with the municipality saw traffic stops, arrests, tickets as a revenue generator, as opposed to serving the community, and that it systematically was biased against African-Americans in that city who were stopped, harassed, mistreated, abused, called names, fined,” Obama said at a town hall-style meeting in South Carolina.

    It’s time for the good cops — and there are many — to clean house.

  5. There have also been scandals about timing the yellow lights on traffic signals, allowing trees to overgrow stop signs, and there are many more.

  6. DBQ – Unions are out of control and seem to be behaving like the mob at times.

    Holder is not aware of revenue generating tickets???? Heck, the park by my brother’s house was built without a parking lot. Then they made one entire side of the street, the one adjoining open space, “no parking.” But they put that “no parking” sign around a curve and in an overgrown tree. Every single weekend, while the soccer teams play, that side of the street has cars parked on it, usually by grandparents or other family members that don’t live in the neighborhood. The cops wait for the games to begin, and just walk up and down giving tickets. After the game, the next wave of parkers are ready to take their place. It’s utterly shameless, but there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it.

  7. Is it any wonder that the police write a zillion tickets?

    Their retirement and benefit packages depend on it.

  8. Want to ask? (I meant). Let me tell you. You join the police/fire/other municipal government position**. Work for many years THEN shortly before retirement, the union makes sure that you are in a HIGH salary position so you can take advantage of the 3% at 50.

    For example. Start work at the age of 25. Earn a salary of 75K for 25 years. and retire. (25 x .0 3) x 75,000 = $56,250 a year in retirement. Pretty nice! Retire at 50 with a guaranteed $56K a year (plus benefits, health insurance, life insurance_maybe etc) Sweet!

    However. If your Union can get you into a better paying position for the last year of your 25 yrs……maybe $150,000…remember it is on your HIGHEST salary, not an average over the years.

    (25 x. 3) x $150,000 = $112,500 a year. Even Better.

    BUT WAIT THERE”S MORE!!

    What if instead of only working to age 50 you decided to work 5 more years to age 55 and then your last year(s) you get the sweet $150,000 a year salary.

    (30 x .03) x $150,000 = $135,000 a year.

    Yay. The tax payers get to pay you for life. $135,000 a year. SWEET!

    Plus, there is nothing stopping you from getting other employment at the age of 55 you are still a pretty young guy. You could get a job earning another $75,000 a year and maybe even at another place with a really cushy defined benefit plan for another 10 years and stack up TWO pensions !!!

    Woo Hoo. The taxpayer money just keeps rolling in.!

    **Actually many non emergency union positions have a lesser formula. 2% at 50 or 2% at 60. It depends on the strength of your Union negotiating on how much they can rape the taxpayers.

  9. “The notion that you would use a law enforcement agency or law enforcement generally to generate revenue, and then the callous way in which that was done and the impact that it had on the lives of the ordinary citizens of that municipality, was just appalling,”

    Has Holder been living under a rock his entire life?. This tickets for revenue scheme has been going on for decades and is not racial. It is all over the entire United States.

    Has Holder no knowledge of what a “speed trap” is. They are very popular in the South and Midwest. How about “asset forfeiture”……the scam whereby the police stop you in your car and steal your money, car and other assets without even having to write you a ticket.

    New York City. The police write all sorts of tickets merely for revenue. It isn’t about stopping crime, stopping illegal parking or anything else. There is no secret that the police have ticket quotas that they are supposed to issue. Keep up with the ticket writing or else. It is about the money….pure and simple.

    Come on! This is nothing new. If more blacks or hispanics get written up or more tourists traveling through your little jerkwater town get caught…..it is only because they are the low hanging fruit. The easy targets of a corrupt way of gathering money.

    Can’t support those 3% at 50 union negotiated pensions without some moolah!!!!! Get writing. Your retirement depends on it.

    For those that don’t know this is what a 3% at 50 retirement plan is and is why the State of California and most municipalities are broke

    A “3% at 50” retirement plan allows employees to retire any time after they reach the age of fifty and annually receive a percentage of their highest salary as their pension. This type of plan, that guarantees certain benefits is called a defined benefit plan and is common among public pensions. Under this plan, the percentage of the salary paid the employee after retirement is determined by the retirees years of employment, as it increases by 3% for every year of service. Thus, the “3%” works as a multiplier. The salary percentage they receive after retirement is equal to 3 times the number of years they have worked. For example, 10 years of employment would result in a retirement salary percentage of 30% and 30 years of employment would result in a retirement salary percentage of 90%.

    What to ask how they game the system to get the HIGHEST salary and the most inflated pension?

  10. I know cops very well. I have dealt w/ cops from hundreds of jurisdictions. Many cops come in w/ good intentions. They become racists, having to deal w/ angry black men. Some resist that. The best way to combat that common devolution is to partner white and black guys. The 2 best cops I ever worked w/, in every respect, were black and white partners in KC. They discussed race amongst themselves bluntly, NON PC, and honestly. They were, unfortunately, too rare in police work. The inner city is something the vast majority of people have no experience w/. I can tell the hand wringers who comment here who have never worked, or even walked through, the inner city. They may have to drive through on occasion. They do so in fear, doors locked, and as quickly as possible. They know it’s dangerous, but they do a Sgt. Schultz and want to “know nothing.” Some areas of inner cities are literally combat zones. We understand and are empathetic of soldiers, well most of us are, who come back from combat zones angry and psychologically injured. We seem to have little empathy for cops who experience the same trauma. THERE ARE BAD COPS! The vast majority are good.

  11. From the preceding link:

    “…Department of Justice report revealed numerous instances of racial discrimination and constitutional violations within the force.”

    “Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that he’s “prepared” to dismantle the Ferguson, Mo., police department after a Wednesday Department of Justice report revealed numerous instances of racial discrimination and constitutional violations within the force.”

    “We are prepared to use all the powers that we have, all the power that we have, to ensure that the situation changes there,” Holder said. “That means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure … If [dismantling is] what’s necessary, we’re prepared to do that.”

    Again: “Numerous instances of racial discrimination and constitutional violations within the force.”

    That should trouble everyone.

  12. Holder ‘Prepared’ to Dismantle the Ferguson Police Department

    Nolan Feeney @NolanFeeney

    8:26 AM ET

    http://time.com/3736247/eric-holder-ferguson-police-dismantle/

    “…the Ferguson police valued “revenue rather than public safety needs.”

    “The notion that you would use a law enforcement agency or law enforcement generally to generate revenue, and then the callous way in which that was done and the impact that it had on the lives of the ordinary citizens of that municipality, was just appalling,” Holder told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base. “And that is not something that we’re going to tolerate.”

  13. Eric Holder, seems to be a frustrated angry individual who is bent on changing the system to fit his bias beliefs. He and the entire administration keeps lowering the standards and changing the America that so many people have come to love and live in.

  14. 2 Ferguson police officers resign in wake of FBI investigation, racist emails

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-ferguson-police-20150306-story.html

    Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson was still on the job Friday, two days after a government report blasted his beleaguered department for years of racial profiling, and the mayor refused to speculate about the chief’s future, saying his role was not to “just chop heads.”

    Meanwhile, three Ferguson employees implicated in racist emails exposed by that report are now gone from their jobs, the mayor said. One was identified as a city court clerk. Two police officers have since resigned in the wake of the released emails.

    Calls for Jackson’s removal were renewed again this week after the Justice Department cleared Darren Wilson, the white former Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown, of federal civil rights charges in the death of the 18-year-old, who was black and unarmed.

    A second report released simultaneously found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the St. Louis suburb that has come to represent the tension between minorities and American police nationwide. …

    “I don’t say that defiantly,” he said. Residents “have been asking us to keep our own department and for the citizens to have input in making changes.”

    Knowles said he was disappointed that Justice Department officials waited until releasing the report to advise him and other city leaders of some of the problems.

    “There’s a lot of things they could have told us sooner and we would have dealt with it,” he said.

    Still, he said, it is clear that his community will benefit from the scrutiny.

    “Ferguson is going to end up being reformed,” Knowles said. “You can’t draw any conclusion other than Ferguson will be better after this.”

    (No one should have had to point out their “problems.” They should have known about them without needing to be told.)

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