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Tag: Ferguson

FBI Tracked, Surveilled Black Lives Matter Protesters More Than Previously Disclosed

Black Lives Matter poster on a window in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters went much further than previously believed as agents tracked the movements of an activist and conducted surveillance of homes and cars of people believed to be tied to rallies in Ferguson, Missouri, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents from 2014 indicate the FBI trailed an activist flying from New York to Ferguson, where protests broke out following the shooting of an unarmed black man.

Federal investigators gathered information from social media to profile and track activists. The FBI even sent informants and set up surveillance of antiracist activists.

The heavily redacted records provide a rough snapshot into FBI activities surrounding the protests.

A November 2014 report shows that an FBI agent alerted investigators that a protester was planning to travel from New York to Ferguson for a Thanksgiving Day protest. The activist’s name was redacted, but notes from investigators indicate they suspected the protester “had been arrested at a previous protest.” Another report suggests the FBI had compiled a dossier on the protester.

The documents contradict the FBI’s earlier assertion that agents don’t police ideology and only target people believed to be planning violence, said Michael German, a former FBI agent and now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program.

“This is clearly just tracking First Amendment activity and keeping this activity in an intelligence database,” said German, in a phone interview, referring to the FBI report about an individual’s plans to travel for a protest. “Even if you made the argument that it is about a propensity for violence, why isn’t there a discussion of that propensity? Instead they are discussing bond money, not detailing a criminal predicate or even a possibility of violence.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ferguson City Council’s Problems with Consent Degree Make No Sense

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Editorial Board
St. Louis Post Dispatch

The more we learn about the Ferguson City Council’s decision to reject key terms of a consent decree with the Department of Justice and fight it out in court, the less sense it makes. The council seems intent on inflating cost estimates as a tactic to avoid compliance. Members should reconsider before it’s too late.

“There is no chance, zero, that the city of the Ferguson will prevail in this kamikaze mission,” police accountability expert Scott Greenwood told the Post-Dispatch’s Stephen Deere. “They are never ever likely to get the deal that they had. … It will never be that good again.”

Greenwood works for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been involved in dozens of consent decree negotiations with police departments around the country. None of the precedents augur well for Ferguson’s case. TheDOJ filed suit Feb. 10, the day after the council objected to seven of the 464 points in the consent decree its representatives had negotiated with Justice Department lawyers.

Rather than collaborate and rely on the federal judge who will oversee the agreement to handle sticky issues, the city decided to tug on Superman’s cape. Ferguson officials still don’t quite understand that they can’t wing it anymore.

Ferguson’s objections center on the costs involved. The city’s already got a $2.8 million budget deficit. Its municipal court cash cow has been severely restricted. The cost of monitoring the consent degree has been pegged at $350,000 a year, but other costs have not been publicly quantified. That should have been the first step.

Instead, the city’s estimates keep going up, more than quadrupling in one 10-day period from $800,000 to $3.7 million.

To read more click here. 

Post-Dispatch: Social Justice Movement in Ferguson Gets Off Track

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Blake Ashby
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Something has gone terribly wrong with the social justice movement. The heavy lifting of making things better is being consumed by a free-floating anger that has little connection to what is actually happening in our country.

Think I’m exaggerating? Some of the angrier members of the social justice community are calling for the recall of Ferguson Councilwoman Ella Jones. She is a very clever political operator who worked her way up, built relationships, accumulated allies and got elected. She is also African-American, as are most of her constituents.

So why are they trying to get Jones kicked out? Because the Department of Justice wants Ferguson to spend an extra $2 million implementing community policing, and Jones and every other council member pushed back and said we can only afford to spend a million. Basically, Jones was voting to spare her constituents $1 million in extra taxes. Activists have concluded that not increasing taxes on the African-Americans who actually vote for her makes Jones a traitor to African-Americans in the rest of the country.

And of course the DOJ sued the city of Ferguson on Feb. 10; the night before, the council had unanimously voted to accept the consent decree the city’s attorneys had negotiated, with a small number of cost-saving modifications. The DOJ used some fairly dramatic language to suggest that Ferguson was somehow fighting progress and clinging to its racist past.

But … did the DOJ even read the proposed changes? Basically, the City Council asked the DOJ to delay implementation for three months while the city looked for a police chief and not require Ferguson give all of its police officers substantial raises. These two changes, along with hiring a local instead of Washington monitor, took the first-year costs down from about $2 million to about $1 million.

The DOJ wants Ferguson to give its mostly white police force a very large raise in hopes the city will be able to recruit more African-American officers. Once the consent decree was publicly released and scrutinized, the city realized the very high cost of the raises.

To read more click here. 

Feds Sue Ferguson Over Police Reforms Aimed at Curbing Misconduct

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is suing Ferguson to force police reforms in a city accused of a pattern of unconstitutional conduct by law enforcement.

CNN reports the decision to file a lawsuit came after the Ferguson City Council voted Tuesday to alter a deal negotiated for months to crack down on misconduct.

“We intend to aggressively prosecute this case,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters Wednesday, “and we intend to prevail.”

Lynch added: “The residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights, the rights guaranteed to all Americans, for decades. They have waited decades for justice,” Lynch said. “They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

Ferguson officials declined to comment on the suit, which alleges a common practice violating residents’ civil rights.

Department of Justice Reaches Agreement on Consent Decree with Ferguson

ferguson logoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An agreement was reached Wednesday between federal officials and leaders in Ferguson, Mo., to end unlawful arrests and excessive force.

The New York Times reports that the agreement still must be approved by the City Council after undergoing public scrutiny.

The pact comes in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.

As a result of the consent decree, Ferguson would be spared an expensive, lengthy court battle.

The pact demonstrates the city’s “commitment to refocusing police and municipal court practices on public safety, rather than revenue generation,” Vanita Gupta, the department’s top civil rights prosecutor, said in a letter to Ferguson.

“It was a sweeping report and the settlement, too, is unusual in its breadth,” the New York Times reports. “It demands changes not only to how and when police officers use force, but to the city’s entire criminal justice system.”

Other Stories of Interest

Ferguson Close to Reaching Deal with Justice Department to Force Changes in Police Department

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Officials in Ferguson, Mo., are close to reaching a deal with the Justice Department to overhaul the city’s Police Department and head off civil rights lawsuits, the New York Times reports. 

But there are challenges to closing the deal, which would require a federal police monitor and an influx of money to pay for it.

Since Ferguson is struggling financially, a tax increase may be necessary to afford the oversight and changes, and that would require approval from voters.

The agreement calls for new training for police and better record-keeping.

The pact between the two governments comes after a Justice Department report in March discovered that police often stop and arrest people without cause, and excessive force was almost exclusively against blacks, the New York Times wrote.

“We have made tremendous progress. We’re very close,” Mayor James Knowles III told the Times.

“We’re at a point where we have addressed any necessary issues, and assuming it is not cost prohibitive, we would like to move forward,” Mr. Knowles said.

Baltimore Sun: FBI Director Comey Wrong about ‘Ferguson Effect,’ Distracts from Real Issue

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Editorial Board
Baltimore Sun

On Friday, FBI Director James Comey told an audience in Chicago that he believes that the “YouTube effect” — that is, the heightened scrutiny police officers have faced after a series of highly publicized incidents of questionable use of force, including Freddie Gray‘s arrest in Baltimore — has contributed to the nation-wide rise in violent crime. This is not a new theory — it has been voiced here by the head of the police union and by the former police commissioner, who said he believed officers “took a knee” after April’s riots. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently said he believed officers had gone “fetal” under the scrutiny. But given what Mr. Comey admits is a lack of any real data to support it, the theory is a damaging one to advance, as it only underscores the disconnect between police and the communities they are supposed to serve.

Mr. Comey said he has heard anecdotal evidence that officers are being told by superiors that their political leaders have “no tolerance for a viral video,” and that as a consequence, officers are reluctant to get out of their cars and question suspicious people. “Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing,” Mr. Comey told an audience at the University of Chicago Law School. “We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

What is so troubling about this line of reasoning is that it suggests officers have no idea about what has brought us to this point. The issue is not officers doing their jobs in an energetic, proactive way. The issue is the use of force when it’s not needed, the violation of civil rights and the general dehumanization of people who live in high crime areas, usually African Americans. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which sparked the era of heightened scrutiny for officers, was not captured on video and proved less clear-cutthan reports initially suggested. But a series of subsequent cases — the killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Sam DuBose, the arrest of Sandra Bland and others — cannot be construed as situations conscientious officers would find themselves in simply by doing their jobs.

To read more click here. 

ATF Investigates Rash of Arsons at Black Churches Near Ferguson

ATF LogoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ATF investigators are searching for a suspect they believe is responsible for setting six black churches on fire near Ferguson, the New York Daily News reports. 

The arsons began on Oct. 8, with the most recent occurring this weekend.

ATF stopped short of saying the motive was racial or religious.

“We believe this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message,” ATF spokesperson John Ham wrote in a statement announcing a $2,000 reward Tuesday. “We believe this activity may be the result of stress experienced in the subject’s life.”

No one was inside the churches when they were set afire.

“This is a spiritually sick person,” Rev. David Triggs, a pastor with the New Life Missionary, said.

Other Stories of Interest