Racist emails lead to 1 firing in Ferguson; report cites more hostility

Ferguson emails show depth of racist attitudes

The Justice Department's 102-page report on the Ferguson Police Department summarizes its conclusions in scathing language: Police persistently violated the rights of African Americans, subjected them to excessive force, showed racial bias and stoked long-held feelings of mistrust.

But it is the email exchanges among police, city and court officials that underscore the atmosphere of racism and intolerance.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said Wednesday that one police department employee linked to the emails has been fired and two others are on administrative leave while the issue is investigated.

Here are the seven emails that were exchanged on city computers and published in the Justice Department report.

• A November 2008 email said President Obama would not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

• A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”

• An April 2011 email depicted Obama as a chimpanzee.

• A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

• A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their daddies are.”

• An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”

• A December 2011 email included jokes based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.

The report noted that investigators never saw a “single instance” of any sender or recipient asking for the emails to stop. Instead, many of them were forwarded to others.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday described Ferguson as “deeply polarized, a community where deep distrust and hostility” often mark police interaction with the public.

The report included graphic anecdotes of racial epithets directed at African Americans. It also describes several instances in which Ferguson police arrested individuals who were trying to help injured loved ones, including this one:

“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).

The report also detailed a variety of unlawful stops, including this one:

"In the summer of 2012, an officer detained a 32-year-old African-American man who was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball. The officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, since his windows appeared more deeply tinted than permitted under Ferguson's code. Without cause, the officer went on to accuse the man of being a pedophile, prohibit the man from using his cellphone, order the man out of his car for a pat-down despite having no reason to believe he was armed, and ask to search his car. When the man refused, citing his constitutional rights, the officer reportedly pointed a gun at his head and arrested him. The officer charged the man with eight different counts, including making a false declaration for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., "Mike" instead of "Michael") and an address that, although legitimate, differed from the one on his license. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator's license and with having no operator's license in possession. The man told us he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government as a result of the charges." 

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