Friday, March 20, 2015

The US Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department

Conor Friedersdorf challenges conservatives to take it seriously:

Conservatives fancy themselves zealous protectors of constitutional rights. They are suspicious of government power. They are hostile to bureaucratic corruption, however petty. And they oppose the confiscation of wealth without compelling reasons. The Ferguson report gives them much to object to in every one of these categories. It is remarkable that many on the right have instead dismissed the report without even reading it—as if psychologizing Eric Holder or cross-referencing generic arguments about disparate impact and crime rates obviated the need to reckon with the Justice Department’s specific findings. It seems to me that a kind of team-sport mentality has prevailed. Conservatives do not like sweeping denunciations of the entire criminal-justice system as racist, and they especially do not like violent protests, looting, and attacks on policemen—all very rightly.

But from there, too many conservatives have come to see any criticism of police conduct, or any allegation of racism, as if it were a play by the opposing team. They duly boo. Instead, they should reflect that all that is correct in their defense of the police is compromised by the extension of that defense to anything unworthy of it. . . .

Many conservatives I have spoken to are of the opinion that the FPD is no worse than any other police department and that they oppose the FPD being targeted simply because of the Michael Brown incident. I suppose this is probably true, but what I don’t understand is why that is seen as a feature, not a bug. The information I am going to describe below is appalling and breathtaking. If Ferguson is no worse than other cities, then why don’t we say that the problem is that all cities need to look very hard at fixing their municipal police departments, rather than that the Ferguson PD should be excused?


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Ask those conservatives, "If you were the parent of a black teenage boy, would you give him The Talk about how to respond safely to police harassment?"

Or maybe they're incapable of the simplest possible act of imaginative empathy.