Detroit activist: Ferguson is just tip of the iceberg

Police departments and government officials around the nation are indicating their embarrassment at the ocean of bias and racism, lined in economic opportunism, that has come to flood our national conversation.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has called attention to this problem for years, and we are glad that it has finally worked its way into our public dialogue.

We don’t have to travel to Ferguson to witness or protest against the problem; profiling via brutality, use of racially disparaging remarks and the like actually led to the federal consent decree against the Detroit Police Department right here. And while the consent decree has been lifted and some of the egregious practices have declined, the institutionalized violence against citizens remains a problem.

The coalition continues to receive daily calls about officers in Detroit and the surrounding municipalities that we are investigating and addressing using the means available to us: the legal system, the media and our advocacy efforts.

And while race is a factor, the phenomenon of law enforcement violence, whether verbal or physical, is also a factor of class. After all, the abuses occur primarily in underdeveloped communities, where young African American males are more likely to reside.

Just contrast the things we have seen in the media with the young man in Birmingham who chose to test open carry laws by carrying a rifle in public. He was exonerated of any charges after going to court and arguing his Second Amendment rights.

We urge the Justice Department to look at policing in America, not just Ferguson as the issue du jour.

They should look at cities like St. Clair Shores, where off duty officers were recently accused of pistol whipping a suspect in a case where a colleague’s daughter’s cellphone was allegedly stolen. We cannot allow officers to mix the personal with the professional in any case. As it turned out, one of the officers was actually charged with assault.

But prosecutors in the case found information, not released in trial, that one of the officers regularly made use of the “N” word and referred to African Americans as less than human.

If President Barack Obama and his task force formed to address police brutality really want to know what’s going on, they should talk to organizations like ours, which have done this work for decades and know in excruciating detail the strategies and tactics used to hide and obfuscate the wrongdoing that happens every day under the color and cover of law.

Ron Scott, Detroit Coalition

Against Police Brutality