Ferguson's Problem Is not Police Racism But a Broken Justice System
By Staff News & Analysis - March 07, 2015

Ferguson's Conspiracy Against Black Citizens … Despite the uncertainty surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, many black residents of Ferguson, Missouri, immediately thought that he was the victim of a wrongful death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, who shot him after a scuffle. [But] the Department of Justice concluded that there is no evidence to disprove Officer Wilson's claim that he feared for his life during the encounter. And the federal agency also presented context that explains why so many black residents assumed foul play and took to the streets in protest: For years, Ferguson's police force has meted out brutality, violated civil rights, and helped Ferguson officials to leech off the black community as shamelessly as would mafia bosses. – The Atlantic

Dominant Social Theme: Ferguson is anomalous. Fedgov needs to take charge and make it right.

Free-Market Analysis: The Department of Justice report on Ferguson is startling. The statistic that jumps out is not one that this article in The Atlantic makes the lead – but it IS the lead or should be. Here is the horrible statistic in context as the article relates it toward the end of the text:

Recall that the population of Ferguson is about 21,000 people. "According to the court's own figures, as of December 2014, over 16,000 people had outstanding arrest warrants that had been issued by the court," the report notes. That is staggering. As is this figure: "Of the 460 individuals arrested during traffic stops solely for outstanding warrants, 443 individuals—or 96%—were African American.

So out of 21,000 people in Ferguson, 16,000 had outstanding arrest warrants. And almost all were black. This is apparently the reality of 21st century America.

To be fair, the article explains that the reason for so many warrants had to do with Ferguson's revenue needs. The police were encouraged to write as many citations as possible and the courts, in turn, hounded Ferguson's desperate, impoverished citizens for every nickel.

"Officers routinely conduct stops that have little relation to public safety and a questionable basis in law," the report states. "Issuing three or four charges in one stop is not uncommon. Officers sometimes write six, eight, or, in at least one instance, fourteen citations for a single encounter." Some officers compete to see who can issue the most citations in a single stop.

The adversarial actions of police officers and the perversion of the court system into a revenue-oriented justice mechanism is surely nothing unusual in 21st century America. Media attention, according to the article, has focused on potential racism in the police force, including racist emails. But the real problem is the institutionalized criminal mechanism that indicts people regularly in order to raise revenue.

We spoke… with an African-American woman who has a still-pending case stemming from 2007, when, on a single occasion, she parked her car illegally. She received two citations and a $151 fine, plus fees. The woman, who experienced financial difficulties and periods of homelessness over several years, was charged with seven Failure to Appear offenses for missing court dates or fine payments on her parking tickets between 2007 and 2010. For each Failure to Appear, the court issued an arrest warrant and imposed new fines and fees.

From 2007 to 2014, the woman was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, and paid $550 to the court for the events stemming from this single instance of illegal parking. Court records show that she twice attempted to make partial payments of $25 and $50, but the court returned those payments, refusing to accept anything less than payment in full. One of those payments was later accepted, but only after the court's letter rejecting payment by money order was returned as undeliverable. This woman is now making regular payments on the fine. As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.

It is to the article's credit that it focuses on this kind of judicial psychosis. But unfortunately, the article fails to derive the obvious message inherent in this report. Instead, the conclusion of the article seems to be that the Ferguson police force has entered into a "conspiracy" against black people.

Little wonder that black people in Ferguson took to the streets after the killing of Michael Brown. Sooner or later, some event was bound to push them over the edge into protest, and even if Officer Wilson acted totally unobjectionably in that encounter, it wouldn't change the fact that the general lack of confidence expressed in municipal and police leadership was well-founded. A DOJ investigation was long overdue, and so are major reforms.

Reforms! The kind of activities described in the report – or at least the mentality – is surely present in many big-city police departments. The real problem, the one that the mainstream media will never address, has to do with the large-scale failure of US justice.

The criminal justice system is not delivering justice anymore. It is creating criminals with abandon. And many of these unfortunate individuals then end up working in "privatized" prisons. The problems faced by US-style justice is much, much deeper than racism. Unfortunately, it begins with the system as it is structured in most Western countries. Just as fiat-monopoly money is bound to be abused by the central banks that print it, so monopoly, "public" justice is inevitably bound to be abused as well.

When only one group – in this case the government – has the affirmative obligation to provide policing, arrests, judicial sentencing and imprisonment, the results will inevitably become corrupted. Such systems lack checks and balances.

Those who built the world's previous cultures understood this well. Once upon a time there was a vast history involving private and third-party justice. The remnants can be seen in the Middle East, India and elsewhere. People tend to settle their grievances face to face or family to family. One can argue that such a system provides rough justice at best. But is it so much worse than a system that criminalizes three-quarters of a single town?

After Thoughts

The US system of jurisprudence is as broken as its monetary system and its educational establishment. The chances are that these facilities are not going to return to health, either. When a society begins to decline (as so many have in the West, not just the US), the next step, as Gibbon observed, is the "fall."

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