“The Ferguson Report: An Erasure”

harassment and degrading treatment,” and who described the steps they take to avoid this—from taking routes to work that skirt Ferguson to moving out of state. An African-American minister of a church in a nearby community told us that he doesn’t allow his two sons to drive through Ferguson out of “fear that they will be targeted for arrest.”

African Americans’ views of FPD are shaped not just by what FPD officers do, but by how they do it. During our investigation, dozens of African Americans in Ferguson told us of verbal abuse by FPD officers during routine interactions, and these accounts are consistent with complaints people have made about FPD for years. In December 2011, for example, an African-American man alleged that as he was standing outside of Wal-Mart, an officer called him a “stupid motherf****r” and a “bastard.” According to the man, a lieutenant was on the scene and did nothing to reproach the officer, instead threatening to arrest the man. In April 2012, officers allegedly called an African-American woman a “bitch” and a “mental case” at the jail following an arrest. In June 2011, a 60-year-old man complained that an officer verbally harassed him while he stood in line to see the judge in municipal court. According to the man, the officer repeatedly ordered him to move forward as the line advanced and, because he did not advance far enough, turned to the other court-goers and joked, “he is hooked on phonics.”

Another concern we heard from many African-American residents, and saw in the files we reviewed, was of casual intimidation by FPD officers, including threats to draw or fire their weapons, often for seemingly little or no cause. In September 2012, a 28-year resident of Ferguson complained to FPD about a traffic stop during which a lieutenant approached with a loud and confrontational manner with his hand on his holstered gun. The resident, who had a military police background, noted that the lieutenant’s behavior, especially having his hand on his gun, ratcheted up the tension level, and he questioned why the lieutenant had been so aggressive. In another incident captured on video and discussed below in more detail, an officer placed his gun on a wall or post and pointed it back and forth to each of two store employees as he talked to them while they took the trash out late one night. In another case discussed above, a person reported that an FPD officer removed his ECW during a traffic stop and continuously tapped the ECW on the roof of the person’s car. These written complaints reported to FPD are consistent with complaints we heard from community members during our investigation about officers casually threatening to hurt or even shoot them.

It appears that many police and City officials were unaware of this distrust and fear of Ferguson police among African Americans prior to August 2014. Ferguson’s Chief, for example, told us that prior to the Michael Brown shooting he thought community-police relations were good. During our investigation, however, City and police leadership, and many officers of all ranks, acknowledged a deep divide between police and some Ferguson residents, particularly black residents. Mayor Knowles acknowledged that there is “clearly mistrust” of FPD by many community members, including a “systemic problem” with youth not wanting to work with police. One FPD officer estimated that about a quarter of the Ferguson community distrusts the police department.

A growing body of research, alongside decades of police experience, is consistent with what our investigation found in Ferguson: that when police and courts treat people unfairly, unlawfully, or disrespectfully, law enforcement loses legitimacy in the eyes of those who have experienced, or even observed, the unjust conduct. See, e.g., Tom R. Tyler & Yuen J. Huo, Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts (2002). Further, this loss of legitimacy makes individuals more likely to resist enforcement efforts and less likely to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to prevent and investigate crime. See, e.g., Jason Sunshine & Tom R. Tyler, The Role of Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Shaping Public Support for Policing, 37 Law & Soc’y Rev. 513, 534-36 (2003); Promoting Cooperative Strategies to Reduce Racial Profiling 20-21 (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2008) (“Being viewed as fair and just is critical to successful policing in a democracy. When the police are perceived as unfair in their enforcement, it will undermine their effectiveness.”); Ron Davis et al., Exploring the Role of the Police in Prisoner Reentry 13-14 (Nat’l Inst. of Justice, New Perspectives in Policing, July 2012) (“Increasingly, research is supporting the notion that legitimacy is an important factor in the effectiveness of law, and the establishment and maintenance of legitimacy are particularly important in the context of policing.”) (citations omitted). To improve community trust and police effectiveness, Ferguson must ensure not only that its officers act in accord with the Constitution, but that they treat people fairly and respectfully.

  • FPD’s Exercise of Discretion, Even When Lawful, Often Undermines Community Trust and Public Safety

    Even where lawful, many discretionary FPD enforcement actions increase distrust and significantly decrease the likelihood that individuals will seek police assistance even when they are victims of crime, or that they will cooperate with the police to solve or prevent other crimes. Chief Jackson told us “we don’t get cooperating witnesses” from the apartment complexes. Consistent with this statement, our review of documents and our conversations with Ferguson residents revealed many instances in which they are reluctant to report being victims of crime or to cooperate with police, and many instances in which FPD imposed unnecessary negative consequences for doing so.

    In one instance, for example, a woman called FPD to report a domestic disturbance. By the time the police arrived, the woman’s boyfriend had left. The police looked through the house and saw indications that the boyfriend lived there. When the woman told police that only she and her brother were listed on the home’s occupancy permit, the officer placed the woman under arrest for the permit violation and she was jailed. In another instance, after a woman called police to report a domestic disturbance and was given a summons for an occupancy permit violation, she said, according to the officer’s report, that she “hated the Ferguson Police Department and will never call again, even if she is being killed.”

    In another incident, a young African-American man was shot while walking on the road with three friends. The police department located and interviewed two of the friends about the shooting. After the interview, they arrested and jailed one of these cooperating witnesses, who was 19 years old, on an outstanding municipal warrant.

    We also reviewed many instances in which FPD officers arrested individuals who sought to care for loved ones who had been hurt. In one instance from May 2014, for example, a man rushed to the scene of a car accident involving his girlfriend, who was badly injured and bleeding profusely when he arrived. He approached and tried to calm her. When officers arrived they treated him rudely, according to the man, telling him to move away from his girlfriend, which he did not want to do. They then immediately proceeded to handcuff and arrest him, which, officers assert, he resisted. EMS and other officers were not on the scene during this arrest, so the accident victim remained unattended, bleeding from her injuries, while officers were arresting the boyfriend. Officers charged the man with five municipal code violations (Resisting Arrest, Disorderly Conduct, Assault on an Officer, Obstructing Government Operations, and Failure to Comply) and had his vehicle towed and impounded. In an incident from 2013, a woman sought to reach her fiancé, who was in a car accident. After she refused to stay on the sidewalk as the officer ordered, she was arrested and jailed. While it is sometimes both essential and difficult to keep distraught family from being in close proximity to their loved ones on the scene of an accident, there is rarely a need to arrest and jail them rather than, at most, detain them on the scene.

    Rather than view these instances as opportunities to convey their compassion for individuals at times of crisis even as they maintain order, FPD appears instead to view these and similar incidents we reviewed as opportunities to issue multiple citations and make arrests. For very little public safety benefit, FPD loses opportunities to build community trust and respect, and instead further alienates potential allies in crime prevention.

  • FPD’s Failure to Respond to Complaints of Officer Misconduct Further Erodes Community Trust

    Public trust has been further eroded by FPD’s lack of any meaningful system for holding officers accountable when they violate law or policy. Through its system for taking, investigating, and responding to misconduct complaints, a police department has the opportunity to demonstrate that officer misconduct is unacceptable and unrepresentative of how the law enforcement agency values and treats its constituents. In this way, a police department’s internal affairs process provides an opportunity for the department to restore trust and affirm its legitimacy. Similarly, misconduct investigations allow law enforcement the opportunity to provide community members who have been mistreated a constructive, effective way to voice their complaints. And, of course, effective internal affairs processes can be a critical part of correcting officer behavior, and improving police training and policies.

    Ferguson’s internal affairs system fails to respond meaningfully to complaints of officer misconduct. It does not serve as a mechanism to restore community members’ trust in law enforcement, or correct officer behavior. Instead, it serves to contrast FPD’s tolerance for officer misconduct against the Department’s aggressive enforcement of even minor municipal infractions, lending credence to a sentiment that we heard often from Ferguson residents: that a “different set of rules” applies to Ferguson’s police than to its African-American residents, and that making a complaint about officer misconduct is futile.

    Despite the statement in FPD’s employee misconduct investigation policy that “[t]he integrity of the police department depends on the personal integrity and discipline of each employee,” FPD has done little to investigate external allegations that officers have not followed FPD policy or the law, or, with a few notable exceptions, to hold officers accountable when they have not. Ferguson Police Department makes it difficult to make complaints about officer conduct, and frequently assumes that the officer is telling the truth and the complainant is not, even where objective evidence indicates that the reverse is true.

    It is difficult for individuals to make a misconduct complaint against an officer in Ferguson, in part because Ferguson both discourages individuals from making complaints and discourages City and police staff from accepting them. In a March 2014 email, for example, a lieutenant criticized a sergeant for taking a complaint from a man on behalf of his mother, who stayed in her vehicle outside the police station. Despite the fact that Ferguson policy requires that complaints be taken “from any source, identified or anonymous,” the lieutenant stated “I would have had him bring her in, or leave.” In another instance, a City employee took a complaint of misconduct from a Ferguson resident and relayed it to FPD. An FPD captain sent an email in response that the City employee viewed as being “lectured” for taking the complaint. The City Manager agreed, calling the captain’s behavior “not only disrespectful and unacceptable, but it is dangerous in [that] it is inciteful [sic] and divisive.” Nonetheless, there appeared to be no follow-up action regarding the captain, and the complaint was never logged as such or investigated.

    While official FPD policy states clearly that officers must “never attempt to dissuade any citizen from lodging a complaint,” FPD General Order 301.3, a contrary leadership message speaks louder than policy. This message is reflected in statements by officers that indicate a need to justify their actions when they do accept a civilian complaint. In one case, a sergeant explained: “Nothing I could say helped, he demanded the complaint forms which were provided.” In another: “I spoke to [two people seeking to make a complaint] . . . but after the conversation, neither had changed their mind and desired still to write out a complaint.” We saw many instances in which people complained of being prevented from making a complaint, with no indication that FPD investigated those allegations. In one instance, for example, a man alleging significant excessive force reported the incident to a commander after being released from jail, stating that he was unable to make his complaint earlier because several diffferent officers refused to let him speak to a sergeant to make a complaint about the incident and threatened to keep him in jail longer if he did not stop asking to make a complaint.

    Some individuals also fear that they will suffer retaliation from officers if they report misconduct or even merely speak out as witnesses when approached by someone from FPD investigating a misconduct complaint. For instance, in one case FPD acknowledged that a witness to the misconduct was initially reluctant to complete a written statement supporting the complainant because he wanted no “repercussions” from the subject officer or other officers. In another case involving alleged misconduct at a retail store that we have already described, the store’s district manager told the commander he did not want an investigation—despite how concerned he was by video footage showing an officer training his gun on two store employees as they took out the trash—because he wanted to “stay on the good side” of the police.

    Even when individuals do report misconduct, there is a significant likelihood it will not be treated as a complaint and investigated. In one case, FPD failed to open an investigation of an allegation made by a caller who said an officer had kicked him in the side of the head and stepped on his head and back while he was face down with his hands cuffed behind his back, all the while talking about having blood on him from somebody else and “being tired of the B.S.” The officer did not stop until the other officer on the scene said words to the effect of, “[h]ey, he’s not fighting he’s cuffed.” The man alleged that the officer then ordered him to “get the f*** up” and lifted him by the handcuffs, yanking his arms backward. The commander taking the call reported that the man stated that he supported the police and knew they had a tough job but was reporting the incident because it appeared the officer was under a lot of stress and needed counseling, and because he was hoping to prevent others from having the experience he did. The commander’s email regarding the incident expressed no skepticism about the veracity of the caller’s report and was able to identify the incident (and thus the involved officers). Yet FPD did not conduct an internal affairs investigation of this incident, based on our review of all of FPD’s internal investigation files. There is not even an indication that a use-of-force report was completed.

    In another case, an FPD commander wrote to a sergeant that despite a complainant being “pretty adamant that she was profiled and that the officer was rude,” the commander “didn’t even bother to send it to the chief for a control number” before hearing the sergeant’s account of the officer’s side of the story. Upon getting the officer’s account second hand from the sergeant, the commander forwarded the information to the Police Chief so that it could be “filed in the non-complaint file.” FPD officers and commanders also often seek to frame complaints as being entirely related to complainants’ guilt or innocence, and therefore not subject to a misconduct investigation, even though the complaint clearly alleges officer misconduct. In one instance, for example, commanders told the complainant to go to court to fight her arrest, ignoring the complainant’s statement that the officer arrested her for Disorderly Conduct and Failure to Obey only after she asked for the officer’s name. In another instance, a commander stated that the complainant made no allegations unrelated to the merits of the arrest, even though the complainant alleged rudeness and being “intimidated” during arrest, among a number of other non-guilt related allegations.

    FPD appears to intentionally not treat allegations of misconduct as complaints even where it believes that the officer in fact committed the misconduct. In one incident, for example, a supervisor wrote an email directly to an officer about a complaint the Police Chief had received about an officer speeding through the park in a neighboring town. The supervisor informed the officer that the Chief tracked the car number given by the complainant back to the officer, but assured the officer that the supervisor’s email was “[j]ust for your information. No need to reply and there is no record of this other than this email.” In another instance referenced above, the district manager of a retail store called a commander to tell him that he had a video recording that showed an FPD officer pull up to the store at about midnight while two employees were taking out the trash, take out his weapon, and put it on top of a concrete wall, pointed at the two employees. When the employees said they were just taking out the trash and asked the officer if he needed them to take off their coats so that he could see their uniforms, the officer told the employees that he knew they were employees and that if he had not known “I would have put you on the ground.” The commander related in an email to the sergeant and lieutenant that “there is no reason to doubt the Gen. Manager because he said he watched the video and he clearly saw a weapon—maybe the sidearm or the taser.” Nonetheless, despite noting that “we don’t need cowboy” and the “major concern” of the officer taking his weapon out of his holster and placing it on a wall, the commander concluded, “[n]othing for you to do with this other than make a mental note and for you to be on the lookout for that kind of behavior.”

    In another case, an officer investigating a report of a theft at a dollar store interrogated a minister pumping gas into his church van about the theft. The man alleged that he provided his identification to the officer and offered to return to the store to prove he was not the thief. The officer instead handcuffed the man and drove him to the store. The store clerk reported that the detained man was not the thief, but the officer continued to keep the man cuffed, allegedly calling him “f*****g stupid” for asking to be released from the cuffs. The man went directly to FPD to file a complaint upon being released by the officer. FPD conducted an investigation but, because the complainant did not respond to a cell phone message left by the investigator within 13 days, reclassified the complaint as “withdrawn,” even as the investigator noted that the complaint of improper detention would otherwise have been sustained, and noted that the “[e]mployee has been counseled and retraining is forthcoming.” In still another case, a lieutenant of a neighboring agency called FPD to report that a pizza parlor owner had complained to him that an off-duty FPD officer had become angry upon being told that police discounts were only given to officers in uniform and said to the restaurant owner as he was leaving, “I hope you get robbed!” The allegation was not considered a complaint and instead, despite its seriousness, was handled through counseling at the squad level.

    Even where a complaint is actually investigated, unless the complaint is made by an FPD commander, and sometimes not even then, FPD consistently takes the word of the officer over the word of the complainant, frequently even where the officer’s version of events is clearly at odds with the objective evidence. On the rare occasion that FPD does sustain an external complaint of officer misconduct, the discipline it imposes is generally too low to be an effective deterrent.

    Our investigation raised concerns in particular about how FPD responds to untruthfulness by officers. In many departments, a finding of untruthfulness pursuant to internal investigation results in an officer’s termination because the officer’s credibility on police reports and in providing testimony is subsequently subject to challenge. In FPD, untruthfulness appears not even to always result in a formal investigation, and even where sustained, has little effect. In one case we reviewed, FPD sustained a charge of untruthfulness against an officer after he was found to have lied to the investigator about whether he had engaged in an argument with a civilian over the loudspeaker of his police vehicle. FPD imposed only a 12-hour suspension on the officer. In addition, FPD appears not to have taken the officer’s untruthfulness into sufficient account in several subsequent complaints, including in at least one case in which the complainant alleged conduct very similar to that alleged in the case in which FPD found the officer untruthful. Nor, as discussed above, has FPD or the City disclosed this information to defendants challenging charges brought by the officer. In another case a supervisor was sustained for false testimony during an internal affairs investigation and was given a written reprimand. In another case in which an officer was clearly untruthful, FPD did not sustain the charge. In that case, an officer in another jurisdiction was assigned to monitor an intersection in that city because an FPD-marked vehicle allegedly had repeatedly been running the stop sign at that intersection. While at that intersection, and while receiving a complaint from a person about the FPD vehicle, the officer saw that very vehicle “dr[iving] through the stop sign without tapping a brake,” according to a sergeant with the other jurisdiction. When asked to respond to these allegations, the officer wrote, unequivocally, “I assure you I don’t run stop signs.” It is clear from the investigative file that FPD found that he did, in fact, run stop signs, as the officer was given counseling. Nonetheless, the officer received a counseling memo that made no mention of the officer’s written denial of the misconduct observed by another law enforcement officer. This officer continues to write reports regarding significant uses of force, several of which our investigation found questionable.

    By failing to hold officers accountable, FPD leadership sends a message that FPD officers can behave as they like, regardless of law or policy, and even if caught, that punishment will be light. This message serves to condone officer misconduct and fuel community distrust.

  • FPD’s Lack of Community Engagement Increases the Likelihood of Discriminatory Policing and Damages Public Trust

    Alongside its divisive law enforcement practices and lack of meaningful response to community concerns about police conduct, FPD has made little effort in recent years to employ community policing or other community engagement strategies. This lack of community engagement has precluded the possibility of bridging the divide caused by Ferguson’s law enforcement practices, and has increased the likelihood of discriminatory policing.

    Community policing and related community engagement strategies provide the opportunity for officers and communities to work together to identify the causes of crime and disorder particular to their community, and to prioritize law enforcement efforts. See Community Policing Defined 1-16 (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2014). The focus of these strategies—in stark contrast to Ferguson’s current law enforcement approach—is on crime prevention rather than on making arrests. See Effective Policing and Crime Prevention: A Problem Oriented Guide for Mayors, City Managers, and County Executives 1-62 (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2009). When implemented fully, community policing creates opportunities for officers and community members to have frequent, positive interactions with each other, and requires officers to partner with communities to solve particular public safety problems that, together, they have decided to address. Research and experience show that community policing can be more effective at crime prevention and at making people feel safer. See Gary Cordner, Reducing Fear of Crime: Strategies for Police 47 (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Jan. 2010) (“Most studies of community policing have found that residents like community policing and feel safer when it is implemented where they live and work.”) (citations omitted).

    Further, research and law enforcement experience show that community policing and engagement can overcome many of the divisive dynamics that disconnected Ferguson residents and City leadership alike describe, from a dearth of positive interactions to racial stereotyping and racial violence. See, e.g., Glaser, supra, at 207-11 (discussing research showing that community policing and similar approaches can help reduce racial bias and stereotypes and improve community relations); L. Song Richardson & Phillip Atiba Goff, Interrogating Racial Violence, 12 Ohio St. J. of Crim. L. 115, 143-47 (2014) (describing how fully implemented and inclusive community policing can help avoid racial stereotyping and violence); Strengthening the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color: Developing an Agenda for Action 1-20 (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2014).

    Ferguson’s community policing efforts appear always to have been somewhat modest, but have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years. FPD has no community policing or community engagement plan. FPD currently designates a single officer the “Community Resource Officer.” This officer attends community meetings, serves as FPD’s public relations liaison, and is charged with collecting crime data. No other officers play any substantive role in community policing efforts. Officers we spoke with were fairly consistent in their acknowledgment of this, and of the fact that this move away from community policing has been due, at least in part, to an increased focus on code enforcement and revenue generation in recent years. As discussed above, our investigation found that FPD redeployed officers to 12-hour shifts, in part for revenue reasons. There is some evidence that community policing is more difficult to carry out when patrol officers are on 12-hour shifts, and this appears to be the case in Ferguson. While many officers in Ferguson support 12-hour shifts, several told us that the 12-hour shift has undermined community policing. One officer said that “FPD used to have a strong community policing ethic—then we went to a 12-hour day.” Another officer told us that the 12-hour schedule, combined with a lack of any attempt to have officers remain within their assigned area, has resulted in a lack of any geographical familiarity by FPD officers. This same officer told us that it is viewed as more positive to write tickets than to “talk with your businesses.” Another officer told us that FPD officers should put less energy into writing tickets and instead “get out of their cars” and get to know community members.

    One officer told us that officers could spend more time engaging with community members and undertaking problem-solving projects if FPD officers were not so focused on activities that generate revenue. This officer told us, “everything’s about the courts . . . the court’s enforcement priorities are money.” Another officer told us that officers cannot “get out of the car and play basketball with the kids,” because “we’ve removed all the basketball hoops— there’s an ordinance against it.” While one officer told us that there was a police substation in Canfield Green when FPD was more committed to community policing, another told us that now there is “nobody in there that anybody knows.”

    City and police officials note that there are several active neighborhood groups in Ferguson. We reached out to each of these during our investigation and met with each one that responded. Some areas of Ferguson are well-represented by these groups. But City and police officials acknowledge that, since August 2014, they have realized that there are entire segments of the Ferguson community that they have never made an effort to know, especially African Americans who live in Ferguson’s large apartment complexes, including Canfield Green. While some City officials appear well-intentioned, they have also been too quick to presume that outreach to more disconnected segments of the Ferguson community will be futile. One City employee told us, “they think they do outreach, but they don’t,” and that some Ferguson residents do not even realize their homes are in Ferguson. Our investigation indicated that, while the City and police department may have to use different strategies for engagement in some parts of Ferguson than in others, true community policing efforts can have positive results. As an officer who has patrolled the area told us, “most of the people in Canfield are good people. They just don’t have a lot of time to get involved.”

  • Ferguson’s Lack of a Diverse Police Force Further Undermines Community Trust

    While approximately two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African American, only four of Ferguson’s 54 commissioned police officers are African American. Since August 2014, there has been widespread discussion about the impact this comparative lack of racial diversity within FPD has on community trust and police behavior. During this investigation we also heard repeated complaints about FPD’s lack of racial diversity from members of the Ferguson community. Our investigation indicates that greater diversity within Ferguson Police Department has the potential to increase community confidence in the police department, but may only be successful as part of a broader police reform effort.

    While it does appear that a lack of racial diversity among officers decreases African Americans’ trust in a police department, this observation must be qualified. Increasing a police department’s racial diversity does not necessarily increase community trust or improve officer conduct. There appear to be many reasons for this. One important reason is that African-American officers can abuse and violate the rights of African-American civilians, just as white officers can. And African-American officers who behave abusively can undermine community trust just as white officers can. Our investigation indicates that in Ferguson, individual officer behavior is largely driven by a police culture that focuses on revenue generation and is infected by race bias. While increased vertical and horizontal diversity, racial and otherwise, likely is necessary to change this culture, it probably cannot do so on its own.

    Consistent with our findings in Ferguson and other departments, research more broadly shows that a racially diverse police force does not guarantee community trust or lawful policing. See Diversity in Law Enforcement: A Literature Review 4 n.v. (U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Office of Justice Programs, & U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Submission to President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Jan. 2015). The picture is far more complex. Some studies show that African-American officers are less prejudiced than white officers as a whole, are more familiar with African-American communities, are more likely to arrest white suspects and less likely to arrest black suspects, and receive more cooperation from African Americans with whom they interact on the job. See David A. Sklansky, Not Your Father’s Police Department: Making Sense of the New Demographics of Law Enforcement, 96 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 1209, 1224-25 (2006). But studies also show that African Americans are equally likely to fire their weapons, arrest people, and have complaints made about their behavior, and sometimes harbor prejudice against African-American civilians themselves. Id.

    While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff. In general, notwithstanding the above caveats, a more racially diverse police department has the potential to increase confidence in police among African Americans in particular. See Joshua C. Cochran & Patricia Y. Warren, Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Perceptions of the Police: The Salience of Officer Race Within the Context of Racial Profiling, 28(2) J. Contemp. Crim. Just. 206, 206-27 (2012). In addition, diversity of all types—including race, ethnicity, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity—can be beneficial both to police-community relationships and the culture of the law enforcement agency. Increasing gender and sexual orientation diversity in policing in particular may be critical in re-making internal police culture and creating new assumptions about what makes policing effective. See, e.g., Sklansky, supra, at 1233-34; Richardson & Goff, supra, at 143-47; Susan L. Miller, Kay B. Forest, & Nancy C. Jurik, Diversity in Blue, Lesbian and Gay Police Officers in a Masculine Occupation, 5 Men and Masculinities 355, 355-85 (Apr. 2003). Moreover, aside from the beneficial impact a diverse police force may have on the culture of the department and police-community relations, police departments are obligated under law to provide equal opportunity for employment. See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

    Our investigation indicates that Ferguson can and should do more to attract and hire a more diverse group of qualified police officers. However, for these efforts to be successful at increasing the diversity of its workforce, as well as effective at increasing community trust and improving officer behavior, they must be part of a broader reform effort within FPD. This reform effort must focus recruitment efforts on attracting qualified candidates of all demographics with the skills and temperament to police respectfully and effectively, and must ensure that all officers—regardless of race—are required to police lawfully and with integrity.


    The problems identified within this letter reflect deeply entrenched practices and priorities that are incompatible with lawful and effective policing and that damage community trust. Addressing those problems and repairing the City’s relationship with the community will require a fundamental redirection of Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement, including the police and court practices that reflect and perpetuate this approach.

    Below we set out broad recommendations for changes that Ferguson should make to its police and court practices to correct the constitutional violations our investigation identified. Ensuring meaningful, sustainable, and verifiable reform will require that these and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight. In the coming weeks, we will seek to work with the City of Ferguson toward developing and reaching agreement on an appropriate framework for reform.

    1. Ferguson Police Practices

      1. Implement a Robust System of True Community Policing

        Many of the recommendations included below would require a shift from policing to raise revenue to policing in partnership with the entire Ferguson community. Developing these relationships will take time and considerable effort. FPD should:

        1. Develop and put into action a policy and detailed plan for comprehensive implementation of community policing and problem-solving principles. Conduct outreach and involve the entire community in developing and implementing this plan;
        2. Increase opportunities for officers to have frequent, positive interactions with people outside of an enforcement context, especially groups that have expressed high levels of distrust of police. Such opportunities may include police athletic leagues and similar informal activities;
        3. Develop community partnerships to identify crime prevention priorities, with a focus on disconnected areas, such as Ferguson’s apartment complexes, and disconnected groups, such as much of Ferguson’s African-American youth;
        4. Modify officer deployment patterns and scheduling (such as moving away from the current 12-hour shift and assigning officers to patrol the same geographic areas consistently) to facilitate participating in crime prevention projects and familiarity with areas and people;
        5. Train officers on crime-prevention, officer safety, and anti-discrimination advantages of community policing. Train officers on mechanics of community policing and their role in implementing it;
        6. Measure and evaluate individual, supervisory, and agency police performance on community engagement, problem-oriented-policing projects, and crime prevention, rather than on arrest and citation productivity.
      2. Focus Stop, Search, Ticketing and Arrest Practices on Community Protection

        FPD must fundamentally change the way it conducts stops and searches, issues citations and summonses, and makes arrests. FPD officers must be trained and required to abide by the law. In addition, FPD enforcement efforts should be reoriented so that officers are required to take enforcement action because it promotes public safety, not simply because they have legal authority to act. To do this, FPD should:

        1. Prohibit the use of ticketing and arrest quotas, whether formal or informal;
        2. Require that officers report in writing all stops, searches and arrests, including pedestrian stops, and that their reports articulate the legal authority for the law enforcement action and sufficient description of facts to support that authority;
        3. Require documented supervisory approval prior to:
          1. Issuing any citation/summons that includes more than two charges;
          2. Making an arrest on any of the following charges:
            1. Failure to Comply/Obey;
            2. Resisting Arrest;
            3. Disorderly Conduct/Disturbing the Peace;
            4. Obstruction of Government Operations;
          3. Arresting or ticketing an individual who sought police aid, or who is cooperating with police in an investigation;
          4. Arresting on a municipal warrant or wanted;
        4. Revise Failure to Comply municipal code provision to bring within constitutional limits, and provide sufficient guidance so that all stops, citations, and arrests based on the provision comply with the Constitution;
        5. Train officers on proper use of Failure to Comply charge, including elements of the offense and appropriateness of the charge for interference with police activity that threatens public safety;
        6. Require that applicable legal standards are met before officers conduct pat-downs or vehicle searches. Prohibit searches based on consent for the foreseeable future;
        7. Develop system of correctable violation, or “fix-it” tickets, and require officers to issue fix-it tickets wherever possible and absent contrary supervisory instruction;
        8. Develop and implement policy and training regarding appropriate police response to activities protected by the First Amendment, including the right to observe, record, and protest police action;
        9. Provide initial and regularly recurring training on Fourth Amendment constraints on police action, as well as responsibility within FPD to constrain action beyond what Fourth Amendment requires in interest of public safety and community trust;
        10. Discontinue use of “wanteds” or “stop orders” and prohibit officers from conducting stops, searches, or arrests on the basis of “wanteds” or “stop orders” issued by other agencies.
      3. Increase Tracking, Review, and Analysis of FPD Stop, Search, Ticketing and Arrest Practices

        At the first level of supervision and as an agency, FPD must review more stringently officers’ stop, search, ticketing, and arrest practices to ensure that officers are complying with the Constitution and department policy, and to evaluate the impact of officer activity on police legitimacy and community trust. FPD should:

        1. Develop and implement a plan for broader collection of stop, search, ticketing, and arrest data that includes pedestrian stops, enhances vehicle stop data collection, and requires collection of data on all stop and post-stop activity, as well as location and demographic information;
        2. Require supervisors to review all officer activity and review all officer reports before the supervisor leaves shift;
        3. Develop and implement system for review of stop, search, ticketing, and arrest data at supervisory and agency level to detect problematic trends and ensure consistency with public safety and community policing goals;
        4. Analyze race and other disparities shown in stop, search, ticketing, and arrest practices to determine whether disparities can be reduced consistent with public safety goals.
      4. Change Force Use, Reporting, Review, and Response to Encourage De-Escalation and the Use of the Minimal Force Necessary in a Situation

        FPD should reorient officers’ approach to using force by ensuring that they are trained and skilled in using tools and tactics to de-escalate situations, and incentivized to avoid using force wherever possible. FPD also should implement a system of force review that ensures that improper force is detected and responded to effectively, and that policy, training, tactics, and officer safety concerns are identified. FPD should:

        1. Train and require officers to use de-escalation techniques wherever possible both to avoid a situation escalating to where force becomes necessary, and to avoid unnecessary force even where it would be legally justified. Training should include tactics for slowing down a situation to increase available options;
        2. Require onsite supervisory approval before deploying any canine, absent documented exigent circumstances; require and train canine officers to take into account the nature and severity of the alleged crime when deciding whether to deploy a canine to bite; require and train canine officers to avoid sending a canine to apprehend by biting a concealed suspect when the objective facts do not suggest the suspect is armed and a lower level of force reasonably can be expected to secure the suspect;
        3. Place more stringent limits on use of ECWs, including limitations on multiple ECW cycles and detailed justification for using more than one cycle;
        4. Retrain officers in use of ECWs to ensure they view and use ECWs as a tool of necessity, not convenience. Training should be consistent with principles set out in the 2011 ECW Guidelines;
        5. Develop and implement use-of-force reporting that requires the officer using force to complete a narrative, separate from the offense report, describing the force used with particularity, and describing with specificity the circumstances that required the level of force used, including the reason for the initial stop or other enforcement action. Some levels of force should require all officers observing the use of force to complete a separate force narrative;
        6. Develop and implement supervisory review of force that requires the supervisor to conduct a complete review of each use of force, including gathering and considering evidence necessary to understand the circumstances of the force incident and determine its consistency with law and policy, including statements from individuals against whom force is used and civilian witnesses;
        7. Prohibit supervisors from reviewing or investigating a use of force in which they participated or directed;
        8. Ensure that complete use-of-force reporting and review/investigation files—including all offense reports, witness statements, and medical, audio/video, and other evidence—are kept together in a centralized location;
        9. Develop and implement a system for higher-level, inter-disciplinary review of some types of force, such as lethal force, canine deployment, ECWs, and force resulting in any injury;
        10. Improve collection, review, and response to use-of-force data, including information regarding ECW and canine use;
        11. Implement system of zero tolerance for use of force as punishment or retaliation rather than as necessary, proportionate response to counter a threat;
        12. Discipline officers who fail to report force and supervisors who fail to conduct adequate force investigations;
        13. Identify race and other disparities in officer use of force and develop strategies to eliminate avoidable disparities;
        14. Staff jail with at least two correctional officers at all times to ensure safety and minimize need for use of force in dealing with intoxicated or combative prisoners. Train correctional officers in de-escalation techniques with specific instruction and training on minimizing force when dealing with intoxicated and combative prisoners, as well as with passive resistance and noncompliance.
      5. Implement Policies and Training to Improve Interactions with Vulnerable People

        Providing officers with the tools and training to better respond to persons in physical or mental health crisis, and to those with intellectual disabilities, will help avoid unnecessary injuries, increase community trust, and make officers safer. FPD should:

        1. Develop and implement policy and training for identifying and responding to individuals with known or suspected mental health conditions, including those observably in mental health crisis, and those with intellectual or other disabilities;
        2. Provide enhanced crisis intervention training to a subset of officers to allow for ready availability of trained officers on the scenes of critical incidents involving individuals with mental illness;
        3. Require that, wherever possible, at least one officer with enhanced crisis intervention training respond to any situation concerning individuals in mental health crisis or with intellectual disability, when force might be used;
        4. Provide training to officers regarding how to identify and respond to more commonly occurring medical emergencies that may at first appear to reflect a failure to comply with lawful orders. Such medical emergencies may include, for example, seizures and diabetic emergencies.
      6. Change Response to Students to Avoid Criminalizing Youth While Maintaining a Learning Environment

        FPD has the opportunity to profoundly impact students through its SRO program. This program can be used as a way to build positive relationships with youth from a young age and to support strategies to keep students in school and learning. FPD should:

        1. Work with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to develop and implement policy and training consistent with law and best practices to more effectively address disciplinary issues in schools. This approach should be focused on SROs developing positive relationships with youth in support of maintaining a learning environment without unnecessarily treating disciplinary issues as criminal matters or resulting in the routine imposition of lengthy suspensions;
        2. Provide initial and regularly recurring training to SROs, including training in mental health, counseling, and the development of the teenage brain;
        3. Evaluate SRO performance on student engagement and prevention of disturbances, rather than on student arrests or removals;
        4. Regularly review and evaluate incidents in which SROs are involved to ensure they meet the particular goals of the SRO program; to identify any disparate impact or treatment by race or other protected basis; and to identify any policy, training, or equipment concerns.
      7. Implement Measures to Reduce Bias and Its Impact on Police Behavior

        Many of the recommendations listed elsewhere have the potential to reduce the level and impact of bias on police behavior (e.g., increasing positive interactions between police and the community; increasing the collection and analysis of stop data; and increasing oversight of the exercise of police discretion). Below are additional measures that can assist in this effort. FPD should:

        1. Provide initial and recurring training to all officers that sends a clear, consistent and emphatic message that bias-based profiling and other forms of discriminatory policing are prohibited. Training should include:
          1. Relevant legal and ethical standards;
          2. Information on how stereotypes and implicit bias can infect police work;
          3. The importance of procedural justice and police legitimacy on community trust, police effectiveness, and officer safety;
          4. The negative impacts of profiling on public safety and crime prevention;
        2. Provide training to supervisors and commanders on detecting and responding to bias-based profiling and other forms of discriminatory policing;
        3. Include community members from groups that have expressed high levels of distrust of police in officer training;
        4. Take steps to eliminate all forms of workplace bias from FPD and the City.
      8. Improve and Increase Training Generally

        FPD officers receive far too little training as recruits and after becoming officers. Officers need a better knowledge of what law, policy, and integrity require, and concrete training on how to carry out their police responsibilities. In addition to the training specified elsewhere in these recommendations, FPD should:

        1. Significantly increase the quality and amount of all types of officer training, including recruit, field training (including for officers hired from other agencies), and in-service training;
        2. Require that training cover, in depth, constitutional and other legal restrictions on officer action, as well as additional factors officers should consider before taking enforcement action (such as police legitimacy and procedural justice considerations);
        3. Employ scenario-based and adult-learning methods.
      9. Increase Civilian Involvement in Police Decision Making

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