Joseph R. Reisert, Harriet S. Wiswell and George C. Wiswell Jr. Associate Professor of American Constitutional Law, writes about two Justice Department reports, one indicating that Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was justified and the other that the Ferguson Police Department is predatory and likely racist as well. Reisert asserts that the reports are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the dire consequences of a local government using its police to raise revenue, which is exactly what the Ferguson city government was doing.
With officers evaluated based on how much money they generated, Reisert notes, “not surprisingly, the police responded by aggressively enforcing every provision of the municipal code, no matter how minor or irrelevant to public safety. … Worse still, the city government created vague crimes, such as ‘manner of walking,’ that in effect gave the police arbitrary power to confront and arrest people.” No wonder, Reisert adds, “that the populace came to be so hostile to the police.” He concludes that keeping the police force focused on public safety is in everyone’s best interest.