The Department of Justice issues two reports, one condemning the police in Ferguson, Missouri, for racism, and the other concluding that its investigation did not support bringing civil rights charges against Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, or as Paul Cassell victoriously proclaims, he was right all along and Wilson’s been cleared. Both are all over the news, and need not be repeated here.
What’s astounding about this is how the Department of Justice’s reports are applauded, embraced with love and blind acceptance, because . . . we trust them so completely.
What happened here? How did the DoJ, the very same DoJ that is the subject of such anger and derision from its abusive prosecutions to its deception and duplicity in the care and feeding of constitutional rights, suddenly become the font of truth and trustworthiness?
This isn’t to say that the reports are wrong, or baseless. As David Menschel twitted, “It’s almost like US DOJ read @ in WaPo and @‘s white paper and simply adopted the analysis.” It’s that the DoJ confirmed our belief that the cops in Ferguson are as bad as we thought they were. Hooray! We were right all along!
If this strikes you as too much like Cassell’s view, tough nuggies. After all, when the DoJ confirms our bias, then truth has won. When it confirms his, then he’s just delusional, particularly since the finding that the evidence doesn’t support prosecution isn’t at all the same as Wilson being cleared.
What do we make of the Department of Justice, whose report about the bad cops of Ferguson is accepted as gospel when it suits our sensibilities but is otherwise a den of legal iniquity when they run roughshod over the Constitution? Is it still a great report when it’s written with unclean hands? Or is it a great report only because we agree with it?
For as long as I can remember, the feds were exalted as having great integrity when it came to assessing the performance of lesser law enforcement agencies. Indeed, whenever some local police department, Ferguson for example, engages in conduct that gives rise to cries of racism or brutality, the next cry is for the federal government to investigate these outrages. Save us, feds, from these vicious cops.
And to add to the mix, the solution following a federal investigation is federal oversight. We applaud the Department of Justice for stepping in, overseeing the conduct of local police who can’t be trusted to conduct themselves lawfully on their own.
Why? Why do we suddenly repose miraculous trust in the federal government to perform with a level of integrity and concern for our welfare, our protection, our rights, when it comes to smacking around the abusive and racist local police, while we simultaneously have a laundry list of evils perpetrated by the feds on their own turf?
Which is it? Are the feds the good guys or the bad guys? Are they better than local cops, but not otherwise trustworthy, or do they somehow magically shift shape when it comes to handling issues of racism and brutality by someone else, even if they can’t manage to clean up their own mess?
Or is it just according to what day of the week it is, because there doesn’t seem to be any principled basis to conclude that the feds are entirely worthy of our trust one day and are utterly lacking in integrity the next? And why doesn’t this seem to trouble anyone else?
Stories about these reports can be found everywhere today, yet the same voices that are regularly critical of the feds suddenly adore them. Now whose integrity is on the line?
Update: And if the problem was unclear, this from the Washington Times:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is enjoying a tidal wave of laudatory press coverage for his activism on the Ferguson, Mo., shooting and subsequent protests. In the 1990s, though, Mr. Holder ignored plenty of cases of District of Columbia black cops killing unarmed black civilians — even when policemen lied about the shootings.
Mr. Holder was appointed in 1993 by President Clinton as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. At that time, D.C. police were killing more civilians than any other large city police force, based on population. The number of killings by D.C. police quadrupled between 1989 and 1995, when 16 civilians died as a result of police gunfire.
This isn’t exactly a strong qualification to throw stones at Ferguson.