After the U.S. Department of Justice released a scathing report on Wednesday of the city of Ferguson, Mo., which exposed a corrupt police and court system that routinely targeted black citizens over white citizens, federal officials dropped the hammer. In light of the discovery of pages of racist and offensive material, as well as an embarrassing mountain of prejudicial decision-making, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters on Friday that the Justice Department was prepared to "use all the power that [it has]" to ensure that the responsible parties were held accountable. When questioned on whether the DOJ would disband the Ferguson police department altogether, Holder replied that it would be prepared to do so "if necessary."
According to the DOJ report, more than a few members of the Ferguson police department and court system had circulated racist material through both work emails and personal social media accounts. One county clerk had also been caught dismissing tickets for personal friends as well, while simultaneously propping up an agenda that villainized black members of the community in order to obtain fees and payments. Within hours of the report's release, many were calling for the dismissal of all offending parties and the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson, although Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told CNN on Friday that Jackson had no knowledge of the inappropriate emails and posts himself.
By Thursday, in the aftermath of the report, police Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd, who had both circulated the emails, had resigned their posts. Earlier in the week, county clerk Mary Ann Twitty had also been dismissed for similar charges. On one of the email threads, Henke had suggested that President Obama "would not be president for very long because a black man can't hold a job." Another message from October 2011 contained a crude image of topless African women dancing, under which the caption read "Michelle Obama's High School Reunion."
In June 2011 the employees had circulated an email that depicted a man registering his pet dogs for welfare, as the animals were "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no ... clue who their Daddies are," said CNN on Friday. According to DOJ investigators, none of the parties involved had ever been disciplined for their actions.
President Obama condemned the city as "oppressive and abusive" in a statement on Friday, although he maintained that he would stand by the decision the courts had made in November not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown. "That was the decision that was made, and I have complete confidence and stand fully behind the decision that was made by the Justice Department on that issue," he said at the town hall meeting.
So far, the body count is low, considering the damning evidence the DOJ report may have dug up. But with three guilty employees already out of commission, it shouldn't be long before the disgraced city considers even more drastic measures, including the possible firing of city manager John Shaw.
"We're going to do our due diligence and hold people accountable," said Mayor Knowles in an interview with CNN on Friday. "We must all work to address issues of racial disparity in all aspects of our society."
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