March 14, 2015

The Shocking Finding From the DOJ's Ferguson Report That Nobody Has Noticed: In Ferguson, a city with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people have outstanding arrest warrants, meaning that they are currently actively wanted by the police.

In the city of Ferguson, nearly everyone is a wanted criminal.
That may seem like hyperbole, but it is a literal fact. In Ferguson -- a city with a population of 21,000 -- 16,000 people have outstanding arrest warrants, meaning that they are currently actively wanted by the police. In other words, if you were to take four people at random, the Ferguson police would consider three of them fugitives.
That statistic should be truly shocking. Yet in the wake of the Department of Justice'swithering report on the city's policing practices, it has gone almost entirely unmentioned. News reports and analysis have focused on the racism discovered in departmental emails, and the gangsterish financial "shakedown" methods deployed against African Americans. In doing so, they have missed the full picture of Ferguson's operation, which reveals a totalizing police regime beyond any of Kafka's ghastliest nightmares.
The Department of Justice's 102-page report is a rich source of damning facts about the Ferguson criminal justice system. But tucked halfway in and passed over quickly is a truly revelatory set of figures: the arrest warrant data for the Ferguson Municipal Court.
It turns out that nearly everyone in the city is wanted for something. Even internal police department communications found the number of arrest warrants to be "staggering". By December of 2014, "over 16,000 people had outstanding arrest warrants that had been issued by the court." The report makes clear that this refers to individual people, rather than cases (i.e. people with many cases are not being counted multiple times). However, if we do look at the number of cases, the portrait is even starker. In 2013, 32,975 offenses had associated warrants, so that there were 1.5 offenses for every city resident.
That means that the city of Ferguson quite literally has more crimes than people.
To give some context as to how truly extreme this is, a comparison may be useful. In 2014, the Boston Municipal Court System, for a city of 645,000 people, issued about 2,300 criminal warrants. The Ferguson Municipal Court issued 9,000, for a population 1/30th the size of Boston's.
This complete penetration of policing into everyday life establishes a world of unceasing terror and violence. When everyone is a criminal by default, police are handed an extraordinary amount of discretionary power. "Discretion" may sound like an innocuous or even positive policy, but its effect is to make every single person's freedom dependent on the mercy of individual officers. There are no more laws, there are only police. The "rule of law," by which people are supposed to be treated equally according to a consistent set of principles, becomes the "rule of personal whim."
And this is precisely what occurs in Ferguson. As others have noted, the Ferguson courts appear to work as an orchestrated racket to extract money from the poor. The thousands upon thousands of warrants that are issued, according to the DOJ, are "not to protect public safety but rather to facilitate fine collection." Residents are routinely charged with minor administrative infractions. Most of the arrest warrants stem from traffic violations, but nearly every conceivable human behavior is criminalized. An offense can be found anywhere, including citations for "Manner of Walking in Roadway," "High Grass and Weeds," and 14 kinds of parking violation. The dystopian absurdity reaches its apotheosis in the deliciously Orwellian transgression "failure to obey." (Obey what? Simply to obey.) In fact, even if one does obey to the letter, solutions can be found. After Henry Davis was brutally beaten by four Ferguson officers, he found himself charged with "destruction of official property" for bleeding on their uniforms.
None of this is even to mention the blinding levels of racism, which remain the central fact of police interactions in Ferguson and nationwide. The overwhelming force of this violent and exploitative policing system is directed at the African American population. In 2013, 92 percent of Ferguson's arrest warrants were issued against African Americans, and black Fergusonians were 68 percent less likely than others to have their court cases dismissed. The racism is so blatant and comprehensive that the DOJ concluded that "Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias." Considering the qualified and colorless language typically deployed in government documents, this is an astonishingly forceful statement.
Ferguson's racism has been central to the media coverage of the release of the DOJ report. But in a certain way, by focusing entirely on disparate racial impacts without examining the sheer scale of the brutal state juggernaut, one misses crucial facts. MSNBC listed as the DOJ's number one "most shocking" finding the fact that "at least one municipal employee thought electing a black president was laughable." But the existence of racist views in the department is not the most shocking fact, not by a country mile. Rather, endemic racism in policing comes standard. However, that racism occurs in the wider context of an ever-enlarging interlocking system of administrative bureaucracy and police violence.


  1. The phony baloney US of Everything Is Rigged, Illegal (or pending)

    This is a great article which should serve as the canary in a coal mine.
    It's not hard to see the rapid expansion of the private profit corporate prison complex manifesting. Along with an accompanying neo-press gang police force.

    In Ferguson, as evidenced here, it already has.

  2. This article is a remarkable follow-up for my other reading this morning in scientist Edward O. Wilson's latest book, _The Meaning of Human Existence_. He was discussing the latest neuroscience and attempts to map the entire human brain, track what it's thinking about, and ferret out memories. Wilson, bless his naive scientist's heart, seems unaware of why the government would fund such research in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The end-game of such research would be the ability to scan every human brain, find any tidbit of memory of even the tiniest criminal act, and send the hapless citizen directly into the prison slavery Gulag. No need for arrest warrants or a trial, since your own brain's memory sufficed for conviction. And then no need for corporations to pay wages to any labor, since we all qualify for slavery under the criminal justice system.

    Such a system is one of the oldest scams in the human herd management manual used by "leaders" of all kinds for thousands of years. As detailed in the book _Why Nations Fail_ , African kings were using this system when European slave traders arrived, making the transition to selling people to foreigners seamless, since they were already accustomed to selling their convicted petty criminals into slavery locally. The black citizens of Ferguson have no idea how close to their African home they still are, in an unbroken chain of injustice.

  3. (1) Who said ALL of those warrants are for Ferguson RESIDENTS?
    (2) How does this compare to Detroit .... New York?

  4. You can't compare it to NewYork or Detroit. Population 21,000. This is an interesting article...with NEW FACTS. New to me anyway, because I NEVER go to HuffPo anymore.
    Is there a way to get the statistic of arrest warrants without an investigation?

  5. With a population of 21,000 maybe 10,000 are adults so how can 16,000 people have arrest warrants.

  6. Why haven't the courts and police stations been burnt to the ground? That's the solution that would solve this nonsense in most countries of the world.

  7. All these blacks are getting welfare and affirmative action from white people, so i don't want to here about how blacks in ferguson are mistreated.