The riots in Ferguson may have subsided, but the legal battle brewing between protesters and city officials may rekindle racial tensions and bring the St. Louis area back into the spotlight.
From the ABA Journal:
Five protesters are suing the city of Ferguson and St. Louis County, Missouri, as well as their police chiefs, based on allegations that they were subject to excessive force and false arrest, among other things.
Two plaintiffs, a woman and her son, 17, claim that they were wrongfully arrested for failure to disperse at a Ferguson McDonald’s restaurant, which they visited after attending an AME Church “Peace and Love rally.”
Another plaintiff arrested for failure to disperse stated that after riding the bus to visit his mother, police shot him with rubber bullets as he attempted to avoid a blocked street.
Justin Cosma, a Ferguson police officer, is also named as defendant in the case.
Specifically, the Ferguson protesters are suing for false arrest, negligent supervision (of the police departments by the City of Ferguson and St. Louis,) intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and two separate civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: deprivation of civil rights, and failure of the police department to train, supervise, and discipline its officers.
The suit seeks over $40 million in damages, and plaintiffs’ attorneys say that new defendants may be added at any time.
This won’t be the first time that police officers in Ferguson have come under fire after alleged civil rights violations. Several officers associated with the department have a history of trouble with allegations of excessive force.
In four federal lawsuits, including one that is on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, colleagues of Darren Wilson’s have separately contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers’ clothes.
One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department in the mid-2000s. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he subsequently was hired by the Ferguson force.
Department of Justice officials are currently debating whether or not to open up a formal investigation into Ferguson officers’ history of using force against civilians. Additionally, the National Bar Association is suing the City of Ferguson to preserve all documents connected to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Police officer unions and advocacy organizations, however, are cautioning against kneejerk reactions to allegations of police brutality:
James O. Pasco Jr., national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, cautions that police officers are constantly accused of using excessive force and that those accusations are just “one side of the story” and do not tell exactly what happened. In 90 percent of cases in which a department has a systemic problem, the issue is with poor management, not the individual officers, he said.
“To suggest that police officers are a marauding, white occupying army out there to deprive minorities of their civil rights is at variance with common sense,” Pasco said. “You can’t have rogue officers in a well-managed police department.”
Only hindsight will reveal whether or not aggressive intervention is warranted in the case of the Ferguson Police Department, but in the court of public opinion, this case may already be decided. Eric Holder’s recent trip to Ferguson, and the DoJ’s involvement with local civil rights advocates, have both poured gasoline on an already out of control bonfire. Although recent polling data suggests that most Americans don’t approve of a federal-centric approach to local law enforcement, both progressives and civil libertarians are currently making extremely short work of the case against Darren Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department.
You can read the protesters’ complaint here.DONATE
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