On the same day that two Ferguson, Missouri police officers resigned after the U.S. Department of Justice discovered they had sent racist emails, President Barack Obama blasted the city’s police force for what he considered the “oppressive and abusive” tactics of a “broken and racially biased system” that eventually culminated in the death of Michael Brown.
“What we saw was that the Ferguson Police Department, in conjunction with the municipality, saw traffic stops, arrests, tickets as a revenue generator, as opposed to serving the community, and that it systematically was biased against African-Americans in that city who were stopped, harassed, mistreated, abused, called names, fined,” Obama said Friday at a town hall-style meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, the Huffington Post reports.
Obama’s comments came after Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd of the Ferguson Police Department quit the force after a Justice Department investigation found that they – along with the city’s top court clerk Mary Ann Twitty, who was fired – had passed racist emails to one another. The emails included, as CNN reports, one that depicted Obama as a chimpanzee and another aimed at First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I don’t think that is typical of what happens across the country, but it’s not an isolated incident,” Obama earlier told SiriusXM’s Urban View of the Ferguson situation. “I think there are circumstances in which trust between communities and law enforcement has broken down, and individuals or entire departments may not have the training or the accountability to make sure they are protecting, serving all people, and not just some.”
While the Department of Justice investigation declined to file charges on former police officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot the unarmed Brown in August 2014 to trigger the chaos in Ferguson, Attorney General Eric Holder said that changes would come to the Ferguson Police Department to ensure a similar incident wouldn’t happen again.
“We are prepared to use all the power that we have, all the power that we have to ensure that the situation changes there,” Holder said. “And that means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.”
The Attorney General also said he would disband the current police department there if he felt it was necessary, though Ferguson mayor John Knowles said he didn’t think that would happen. More likely, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson would be forced to step down from his post.
According to WYFF 4 in South Carolina, while Obama expressed disappointment with the Ferguson Police Department, when asked at the South Carolina town hall meeting about why there were no federal charges against Wilson, Obama replied that the standard for federal charges was very high and that he has “complete confidence and stand fully behind the decision that was made by the Justice Department on that issue.”