A+ R A-

News Wire

In Selma, Ala., Obama Proved that he is 'Black Enough'

E-mail Print PDF


By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

SELMA, Ala. (NNPA) – Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama was dogged by one question: Is he Black enough? The question was repeated so often that after showing up late for an appearance at the 2008 annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Las Vegas, Obama said, “I want to apologize for being late, but you guys keep asking whether I am Black enough.”

After a 33-minute speech Saturday in Selma, Ala. commemorating the Selma to Montgomery March and passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, nobody was asking: Is Barack Obama Black enough?

President Obama rarely discussed the issue of race in his first six years in office except in reaction to a major racial catastrophe such as the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. or the arrest of Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for breaking into his own home.

On Saturday, however, President Obama seemed comfortable discussing race in public, showing he has a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement and quoting or referencing the Bible, Black spirituals, James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Langston Hughes, the Tuskegee Airmen, Jackie Robinson and even his favorite hip-hop artist Jay-Z.

While connecting with African Americans, President Obama also underscored the significance of civil rights warriors making America hold true to its creed.

“As John [Lewis] noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral,” the president said.

“Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher – all that history met on this bridge.”

He made his comments with the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights marchers were attacked by Alabama State Troopers on “Bloody Sunday,” serving as a backdrop.

“It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the true meaning of America,” Obama said. “And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others, the idea of a just America and a fair America, an inclusive America, and a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed.”

President Obama also acknowledged the contributions of thousands whose name will never be known to the public yet played a critical role in securing the right to vote.

“As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes. We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.

“They did as Scripture instructed: ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’ And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came –- black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope.”

President Obama admitted what many, if not most African Americans have long accepted as fact – it was through their efforts that other groups obtained their rights. In fact, often ahead of Blacks.

“Because of what they [protesters] did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American,” Obama said. “Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities – they all came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.”

The president said in order to be true to those who sacrificed to make America a better place, everyone – Black and White – has an obligation to address America’s unfinished business.

“First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done. The American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation. Selma teaches us, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.”

He said, “If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.”

Obama addressed two hot-button issues – the criminal justice system and voter disenfranchisement efforts – directly.

“With such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on – the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago – the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and good workers, and good neighbors. With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity.”

Regarding Republican-led efforts to suppress the Black and Latino vote, Obama said: “Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor.”

But the problem does not stop there, Obama said.

“Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or even the president alone. If every new voter-suppression law was struck down today, we would still have, here in America, one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life.

“What’s our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future? Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places? We give away our power. “

Hip-hop artist Jay-Z’s remix of the song, “My President” has the popular line: “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk / Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run / Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly.”

In his speech, Obama had his own line that showed he was in tune with Jay-Z’s lyrics: “We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar.”

He added, “And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.”

Impact of Roe v. Wade on Black Community an Ongoing Debate

E-mail Print PDF

By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

In 1967, Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown, the first African-American woman surgeon in the South and a Tennessee state assemblywoman, was the first American lawmaker to sponsor a proposed bill to fully legalize abortion. The proposal failed. But, in 1970, pregnant Dallas-area resident Norma L. McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) sued then-District Attorney Henry Wade, claiming that a Texas law criminalizing most abortions violated McCorvey’s constitutional rights. On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Roe’s favour, asserting that the “right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action…or… in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

The high court’s controversial ruling in Roe v. Wade, which allowed women to have an abortion in the early stages of her pregnancy without government interference, has reverberated throughout the nation and across the decades. Divisive in nature, it has spawned acrimonious debate, sharp political partisanship and even violence.

Undoubtedly, however, Roe v. Wade has had an undeniable impact on American women, particularly African-American women—though the nature of the effect is, as expected, a source of debate. “This was a landmark case that absolutely changed the game for women of color in this country,” said Monica Simpson, executive director, Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

“This is the first case that really helped alleviate reproductive oppression and allowed women to make their own decisions over their body.”

On the other hand, pro-life advocates say the death of millions through abortion, rather than being a source of “justice,” has instead unleashed a “holocaust” and “genocide” in the African-American community.

That idea burst back into the mainstream during 2010’s Black History Month when the Radiance Foundation, a Georgia-based antiabortion group, erected dozens of billboards proclaiming the message, “Black children are an endangered species.” The following year, the group Life Always sparked outrage with a billboard in lower Manhattan that declared, The most dangerous place for an African-American is the womb.”

Both groups, and other anti-abortion activists, have identified Planned Parenthood – the international non-profit and provider of reproductive health services, including abortion – as the villain in this so-called genocide. For example, in New York, the home of Planned Parenthood, more Black babies are aborted than are born alive (1,223 to 1,000), according to the Radiance Foundation, which cited the state’s health department. Activists say the group targets African Americans, pointing to its founder Margaret Sanger’s connection to the eugenics movement—which sought to cull the population of those considered “unfit,” usually the disabled, poor and minorities—and the location of the group’s clinics in poorer, minority communities.

The AFRO reached out to Planned Parenthood but did not receive a statement by deadline.

“As someone who is Black and has worked in the community all my life, I think Roe v. Wade has had a devastating impact on the Black community,” Ryan Scott Bomberger, chief creative officer and founder of the Radiance Foundation, told the AFRO. He added, “If you go off of the United Nations’ definition of genocide, it is exactly what has happened in the Black community.”

Fuelling these claims is the long-held fact: the comparatively high abortion rates among Black women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008 (the last year for which information is available), White women accounted for 37.2 percent of abortions, Black women for 35.5 percent, Hispanic women for 21.1 percent and other races for 6.3 percent. But, Black women have the highest rates and ratios of abortion – almost four times that of White women: 33.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years and 472 abortions per 1,000 live births compared to 8.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years and 140 abortions per 1,000 live births. Reproductive rights and health advocates attribute the disproportionate number of abortions among Black women to the higher number of unintended pregnancy rates within the group. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the challenge faced by many women of color in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using them consistently, they say, and also reflect the broader realities of racial and ethnic disparities in health care access and outcomes. For example, it was only when President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act that health insurance companies were required to offer free birth control coverage, and Medicaid—the source of health coverage for many low-income, minorities—is still not required to offer free contraceptives. Sonya Michel, an expert in women’s history, University of Maryland—College Park and senior scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said because of their relatively low incomes and lack of access to quality health care, African-American women did not always have the full reproductive freedom other groups enjoyed.

“One of the ironies when you look across the political spectrum, the people who are the most opposed to abortion are also opposed to providing affordable birth control and welfare benefits to African-American people,” Michel said, adding that such detractors are basically saying Black people shouldn’t have sex.

The abortion-as-genocide supporters however, decry those claims, seeing abortion as another in a set of attempts—some government-sponsored—to decimate the Black community. Such fears are grounded in a history of medical—including reproductive health—abuses within the Black community.

“We’ve been accused of promoting conspiracy theories, but it is not conspiracy, it’s history,” Bomberger said.

In her book, Killing the Black Body author Dorothy Roberts outlines the history of the control and manipulation of the Black woman’s womb as a tool of racial oppression in the United States.

“The systematic, institutionalized denial of reproductive freedom has uniquely marked Black women’s history in America,” she wrote. “Considering this history—from slave masters’ economic stake in bonded women’s fertility to the racist strains of early birth control policy to sterilization abuse of Black women in the 1960s and 1970s to the current campaign to inject Norplant and Depo-Provera in the arms of Black teenagers and welfare mothers—paints a powerful picture of the powerful link between race and reproductive freedom in America.”

That tainted history prompted several within the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements to view birth control and abortion as a form of “race suicide,” and encouraged Black fertility as a means of empowering the Black race.

Bomberger echoes those sentiments, which—for him—is grounded in a deep personal history. The product of rape—which has long been accepted as a rationale for abortion—Bomberger was instead given up for adoption and raised in a Christian family of 15 children—10 of whom were adopted. He is, himself, the parent of two adopted children.

“It is a huge blow to Black voting power” and to other aspects of the Black community, he said of the “epidemic” of abortions.

“We’ve heard the term #BlackLivesMatter, but when do they matter?” Bomberger questioned, later adding, “We want to stop the destruction of beautiful possibility in the Black community, not only of the unborn children who are killed, but of potential mothers and fathers…. For a people who have overcome such a heinous past to believe killing our future is something to celebrate baffles me.”

Conversely, pro-choice advocates see the nation’s history of abuse against the Black woman and the costs of involuntary motherhood as even more reason why Roe v Wade is a matter of justice.

Among African female slaves, abortion and birth control methods were part of their heritage—used as part of their basic health care but also as a form of self-determination, protection of potential children from the horrors of slavery and protest against enslavers that viewed them as mere brood mares.

In an 1856 medical essay, Dr. E.M. Pendleton noted complaints by plantation owners that their slaves seemed to be “possessed of a secret by which they destroy the foetus at an early age of gestation.”

But the indigenous knowledge of those African slaves were lost as the gap between the generations grew wider–and as modern-day Black women began to lean more heavily on institutionalized medical care, Simpson said. And, then-illegal abortion became dangerous.

“Women were taking extreme measures to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies,” the reproductive justice activist said. “Most of the women who lost their lives before Roe v. Wade were women of color.”

Given those and other socio-political realities, Simpson said it is “completely ridiculous” to “pressure” Black women with these abortion-as-genocide memes void of further discussion about the role of Black men who abandon their families, void of discussions about the economic inequalities Black women face, void of social issues such as police violence against young Black men, void of discussions about the lack of comprehensive sex education for Black boys and girls, etc.

“It is absolutely absurd and cruel to shame Black women in this way because at the end of the day, we don’t know why a woman may choose not to have a child,” she said. “What trips me out is people think women are making these choices lightly. This is never an easy decision for any person to make.”

District Agencies Help Convicts Deal with Mental Health Issues

E-mail Print PDF

By Linda Poulson
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Jeffrey Moore was shot in the face. The trauma from his ordeal caused mental health challenges while taking numerous medications. The resulted: He was incarcerated. “At some point people will have mental health challenges, especially with problems they face in life,” he said.

Moore is getting assistance from University Legal Services (ULS), helping him transition to a halfway house. He believes it will be difficult to find work because of his condition. “People already make assessments about you,” he stated. “Why are people with mental health issues pushed back?”

Moore is one example of the thousands suffering from mental health issues who have been incarcerated. The topic is broad-based and depend on behavioral mechanisms that are sometimes hard to define.

ULS has formed a partnership with the D.C. Jail and Prison Advocacy Project (JPAP) for District residents who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or emotional impairment. Symptoms include schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Jennifer Skeem, a professor at the University of California Berkeley whose research involves justice policy with people that have emotional and behavioral problems, was part of the panel.

“There has been a dramatic increase since 2012,” Skeem said. “There is a perceived root of the problem through imperfect models of what actually works.”

Skeem mentioned a three-step process that takes priority in helping cases of mental illness. “Psychiatric services are not the linchpin,” Skeem continued. “What is the roadmap in the number of people and risk factors in criminal behavior?”

Ann-Marie Louison of the Nathaniel Project in New York City share her ideas about what is needed to help those who are incarcerated. As co-founder of the project, she developed the first “alternative-to-incarceration” program in the Manhattan Supreme Court. The program helps adults with severe mental illnesses that are convicted of felonies. “In New York, there is a natural judicial process in which the majority has felonies,” she said. “Quality of life is important.”

There are 25 mental health clinics or Core Service Agencies (CSAs) in the District. University Legal Services can help those decide which one best suit their needs depending on their condition.

The JPAP received a three-year grant from the Langeloth Foundation for a pilot program with ULS’ Federal Bureau of Prison’s Mental Health Transition Planning Project. Tammy Seltzer is the program director. The legal service provides incarcerated individuals with mental health assistance when leaving prison to go back into the community. The service also provides those who face discrimination due to their condition. The support continues for six months.

Taylar Neuvelle was glad she networked enough to find out about the project. “I had a mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) complex due to abuse,” Neuvelle said. “When I went in front of the judge due to my symptoms, he didn’t care,” she said.

Neuvelle had been abused since childhood. Her former husband also abused her.

More information on University Legal Services can be obtained at www.uls-dc.org.

Blacks Now Finishing High School at Record Levels

E-mail Print PDF

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After 30 years of little to no progress, Black youth are completing high school at the highest rates in history.

This is the finding in a new issue brief titled, “Young Black America Part One: High School Completion Rates are at their Highest Ever,” published by the Center for Economic Policy Research, a Washington-based think-tank. The report examines Census Bureau data for 20 to 24 year-olds, and compares high school completion rates around the country over the past 30 to 40 years.

“All in all, young blacks have experienced significant gains in high school completion rates during the past 13 years,” the report reads. “Given the importance of educational attainment in determining future wages, higher completion rates should, in theory, translate to higher wages.”

In 1975, Black Americans finished high school at a 75 percent rate, compared to 88 percent for Whites and the overall 86 percent rate. In 2000, Blacks completed high school at a 14 percent lower rate than their White counterparts. However, by 2013, the Black completion rate rose to 86 percent, its highest-ever level, shrinking the Black-White gap to less than 7 percent.

“I’m a young Black woman and I wanted to answer the question of what’s going on with young Blacks in America,” says Cherrie Bucknor, a Center for Economic Policy Research assistant and author of the paper. “Sometimes there are too many negative portrayals and negative stereotypes on young Blacks, and I like the fact this was something positive to focus on.”

The gender break down also shows a noteworthy trajectory. In addition to slightly outpacing the rate for Black boys (a trend that holds for all girls, across race), the completion rate for Black girls is 89 percent, only five points lower than the rate for White girls.

While the gains of Black girls were more gradual, Black boys have experienced a rocky road to improvement in helping close the Black-White high school completion gap.

“The completion rate for black males followed the same trajectory, but 3 to 8 percentage points lower. Although black males experienced noticeable gains in completion rates during this century (an increase of 18.1 percent since 2000), their gains were not enough to offset the gains of other groups, leaving noticeable gaps in completion rates between black males and other groups,” the report stated.

“In 2013, the completion rate for black males (83.5 percent) was 5.9 percentage points lower than black females and 8.8 percentage points lower than white males.”

Regional analysis also shows a different trend. At 10 percent higher than the national rate for Black students, the West has held the most promise for Black students since 1975. But the other regions have caught up in recent years. As of 2013, Black students in both the Northeast and the West have the highest completion rates (88.2 and 88.1 percent, respectively). Further, all of the regions now have comparable rates for Black students, all within three percentage points of one another.

Although the report does not examine or speculate on causes for this breaks in these trends, Bucknor has a few theories.

“One factor that might be in play is increasing the graduation requirements for students in general, which makes the decision to drop out or stay in school a little bit different than before then,” Bucknor explains, adding that test scores for entering freshmen also been improving. “And since 2000, some of the plausible factors that I’ve read about include declining teenage birth rates…[which] makes them more likely to be in school.”

The teenage birth rate is also at a historic low, particularly for Black teens. According to 2012 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the maternity rate for Black girls age 15 to 17 has dropped 45 percent since 2000; for 18 and 19-year olds it has dropped 30 percent.

This report is the first part in a series that explores measures of success (or lack thereof) among Black people under 40.

“I feel like there’s a lot of attention on Blacks in general, but I wanted to focus on young Blacks like me,” Bucknor says. “So I’m hoping to look at several issues related to education, jobs, and inequality as a way to answer that question.”

Ferguson Increased Revenue by Targeting Blacks

E-mail Print PDF

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Justice Department’s recent investigation of the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department not only revealed widespread racism in its operation, but described how poor Blacks were targeted to boost the sagging revenues of small municipalities.

“Ferguson police officers issued nearly 50 percent more citations in the last year than they did in 2010 – an increase that has not been driven, or even accompanied, by a rise in crime,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder said at a press conference to release finding of its investigation of Ferguson. “Along with taxes and other revenue streams, in 2010, the city collected over $1.3 million in fines and fees collected by the court. For fiscal year 2015, Ferguson’s city budget anticipates fine revenues to exceed $3 million – more than double the total from just five years prior.”

Holder said that Ferguson police officers were pressured to deliver on those revenue goals, some even competed to see who could write the most citations in a single stop.

“Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue – starting with fines and fine- enforcement – the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity,” Holder explained.

He told the story of one woman, who received two parking tickets in 2007 for $152 and has paid more than $500 in fines and fees to Ferguson. She was arrested twice for failure to pay tickets and even spent time in jail and she still owes Ferguson $541.

Beyond the compounding fines and frequent traffic stops, Ferguson police, charged with upholding the law, ran roughshod all over it, routinely violated the civil rights of African American residents.

Holder said that the Justice Department’s investigation found “a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents.”

He said that the Justice Department’s investigation showed that Ferguson police officers “routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them. According to the Police Department’s own records, its officers frequently infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights.”

Holder added: “And even in cases where police encounters start off as constitutionally defensible, we found that they frequently and rapidly escalate – and end up blatantly and unnecessarily crossing the line.”

Holder recounted a 2012 arrest in which a Ferguson police officer approached a 32-year-old African American man while he sat in his car after playing basketball at a park.

“The car’s windows appeared to be more heavily tinted than Ferguson’s code allowed, so the officer did have legitimate grounds to question him,” said Holder. “But, with no apparent justification, the officer proceeded to accuse the man of being a pedophile. He prohibited the man from using his cell phone and ordered him out of his car for a pat-down search, even though he had no reason to suspect that the man was armed. And when the man objected – citing his constitutional rights – the police officer drew his service weapon, pointed it at the man’s head, and arrested him on eight different counts. The arrest caused the man to lose his job.”

These types of incidents were anything but isolated, according to Holder.

Even though Blacks account for 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, they comprised more than 85 percent of the traffic stops, between October 2012 and October 2014. Once they were stopped, Blacks were twice as likely to be searched than Whites, but 26 percent less likely to possess contraband or illegal substances.

Nearly 90 percent of the incidents where police officers used force involved Blacks, and in all 14 uses of force involving a canine bite in which the race of the person bitten was reported, the person was African American. Between October 2012 and July 2014.

“This deeply alarming statistic points to one of the most pernicious aspects of the conduct our investigation uncovered: that these policing practices disproportionately harm African American residents,” said Holder. “In fact, our review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias.”

Even though city officials and Ferguson Police Department (FPD) officers attributed the individual experiences of residents trapped in the maze of the municipal enforcement system to a lack of personal responsibility, they seemed to ignore the gaps in their own professional accountability to the system.

The Justice Department reported that, Ferguson police omitted critical information from the citations, making it impossible for a person to know what offense they are being charged for, “the amount of the fine owed, or whether a court appearance is required or some alternative method of payment is available,” the report said.

“In some cases, citations fail to indicate the offense charged altogether; in November 2013, for instance, court staff wrote FPD patrol to ‘see what [a] ticket was for’ because ‘it does not have a charge on it.’ In other cases, a ticket will indicate a charge, but omit other crucial information. For example, speeding tickets often fail to indicate the alleged speed observed, even though both the fine owed and whether a court appearance is mandatory depends upon the specific speed alleged.”

Not only did Ferguson police officers submit incomplete citations they also gave people the wrong dates and times for court appearances, increasing the likelihood that they would face additional fines for failing to appear at the correct time.

“It is often difficult for an individual who receives a municipal citation or summons in Ferguson to know how much is owed, where and how to pay the ticket, what the options for payment are, what rights the individual has, and what the consequences are for various actions or oversights,” said the report. “The initial information provided to people who are cited for violating Ferguson’s municipal code is often incomplete or inconsistent. Communication with municipal court defendants is haphazard and known by the court to be unreliable. And the court’s procedures and operations are ambiguous, are not written down, and are not transparent or even available to the public on the court’s website or elsewhere.”

The Justice Department recommended that Ferguson implement a robust system of community policing, prohibit the use of formal or informal ticketing and arrest quotas, and encourage de-escalation and the use of minimal force necessary. The department also recommended that police officers seek supervisory approval before issuing multiple citations and making arrests in certain cases.

In the wake of the report, two Ferguson police officers were forced to resign. The fate of Tom Jackson, the chief of police, is still uncertain.

Holder said that dialogue, by itself, will not be sufficient to address these issues, because concrete action is needed. However, initiating a broad, frank, and inclusive conversation is a necessary and productive first step.

“It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said. “Let me be clear: the United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change.”

Page 3 of 364

BVN National News Wire