Craig, we knew you when we passed -- like half-masted schooners in the dark of night -- staggering in different directions on Avenue A back in the 1980s. And we liked your gig with CBS Late Late Show. The puppets, the flirtations with gay culture and sexual preference, your robot friend Geoff as well as the many entertaining if not insightful interviews.
In a way your career trajectory seems 180 degrees opposite of Johnny Carson. Carson began at NBC as the host of a daytime game show Who Do You Trust before replacing Jack Parr on the Tonight Show. You've gone from late night to daytime game show host.
(Well, had to throw that in. Now on to more serious deliberations.)
Municipal Government or Gansta' Cartel? You Decide.
I've been sampling the Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department conducted by the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division published March 4, 2015.
Most revealing are the DOJ interviews with Ferguson residents. Each random encounter with FPD is an exercise in tragedy yet somehow no two are exactly alike.
There's variety and plenty of it.
Even relatively routine misconduct by Ferguson police officers can have significant consequences for the people whose rights are violated. For example, in the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also asked to search the man’s car.Why yes, because pedophile ISIS operatives are always prowling around pickup basketball locations, with vials of Ebola virus stashed in the Igloo wheelie (back seat).
The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.Quantum effects are not unusual in Ferguson, MO. Citizens may possess a drivers license listing previous address, a drivers license that is expired, and no drivers license whatsoever, an example of spooky entanglement of simultaneous states.
Let's check the Ferguson "Grift-O'-Meter for a tabulation of known fines incurred for this encounter.
Loss of job as government contractor: Priceless.
Please note the above estimate, as others to follow, omits any additional court costs associated with arrest.
Here's another example of a perfect day in another Ferguson Public Park.
In June 2014, an African-American couple who had taken their children to play at the park allowed their small children to urinate in the bushes next to their parked car. An officer stopped them, threatened to cite them for allowing the children to “expose themselves,” and checked the father for warrants. When the mother asked if the officer had to detain the father in front of the children, the officer turned to the father and said, “you’re going to jail because your wife keeps running her mouth.” The mother then began recording the officer on her cell phone.
The officer became irate, declaring, “you don’t videotape me!” As the officer drove away with the father in custody for “parental neglect,” the mother drove after them, continuing to record. The officer then pulled over and arrested her for traffic violations. When the father asked the officer to show mercy, he responded, “no more mercy, since she wanted to videotape,” and declared “nobody videotapes me.” The officer then took the phone, which the couple’s daughter was holding. After posting bond, the couple found that the video had been deleted.In all fairness perhaps the attending officer was uncomfortable with not being "camera-ready" on this occasion. Bad hair day, no neutral-density foundation to wick up the shiny nose, etc. These are all legitimate considerations when appearing on HD portable video. Everyone wants to look their best on the job.
It's not revealed by DOJ whether or not this case was dismissed and no information on the amount of bond posted. Fines for parental neglect and public exposure were unavailable at press time.
Despite the lack of qualified personnel assigned for "last looks," FPD seem eternally vigilant to respond to random household disputes.
We spoke with one African-American man who, in August 2014, had an argument in his apartment to which FPD officers responded, and was immediately pulled out of the apartment by force. After telling the officer, “you don’t have a reason to lock me up,” he claims the officer responded: “N*****, I can find something to lock you up on.” When the man responded, “good luck with that,” the officer slammed his face into the wall, and after the man fell to the floor, the officer said, “don’t pass out motherf****r because I’m not carrying you to my car.”The Justice Dept. doesn't elaborate on what happened to this resident after suffering a contusion that left him unconscious. Perhaps he had to crawl on all fours to the car, or perhaps the attending officer called Uber for the pick-up.
Using "reasonable and customary charges" it's fair to conclude that an ER visit (including CT scan) is upward of $1200. Then there is the issue of car-fare, since Deputy Dan wasn't feeling it. Cost of ambulance: $350-600.
Next we move on to one of the more creative civil ordinances enforced by the FPD: Manner of Walking. DOJ doesn't actually define the term perhaps because there is no clear definition other than jaywalking or creating a public nuisance.
Officers in Ferguson also use their arrest power to retaliate against individuals for using language that, while disrespectful, is protected by the Constitution. For example, one afternoon in September 2012, an officer stopped a 20-year-old African-American man for dancing in the middle of a residential street. The officer obtained the man’s identification and ran his name for warrants. Finding none, he told the man he was free to go. The man responded with profanities. When the officer told him to watch his language and reminded him that he was not being arrested, the man continued using profanity and was arrested for Manner of Walking in Roadway."Moon-walking", no doubt.
In February 2014, officers responded to a group of African-American teenage girls “play fighting” (in the words of the officer) in an intersection after school. When one of the schoolgirls gave the middle finger to a white witness who had called the police, an officer ordered her over to him. One of the girl’s friends accompanied her. Though the friend had the right to be present and observe the situation—indeed, the offense reports include no facts suggesting a safety concern posed by her presence—the officers ordered her to leave and then attempted to arrest her when she refused. Officers used force to arrest the friend as she pulled away. When the first girl grabbed an officer’s shoulder, they used force to arrest her, as well.
Officers charged the two teenagers with a variety of offenses, including: Disorderly Conduct for giving the middle finger and using obscenities; Manner of Walking for being in the street; Failure to Comply for staying to observe; Interference with Officer; Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer; and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (themselves and their schoolmates) by resisting arrest and being involved in disorderly conduct.Fodor's Guide expressly cautions against flipping the bird at white Ferguson residents. These young women didn't get the memo. As a result they engaged in child endangerment, a no-no in FPD's philosophy of community policing.
On February 9, 2015, several individuals were protesting outside the Ferguson police station on the six-month anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. According to protesters, and consistent with several video recordings from that evening, the protesters stood peacefully in the police department’s parking lot, on the sidewalks in front of it, and across the street. Video footage shows that two FPD vehicles abruptly accelerated from the police parking lot into the street. An officer announced, “everybody here’s going to jail,” causing the protesters to run. Video shows that as one man recorded the police arresting others, he was arrested for interfering with police action. Officers pushed him to the ground, began handcuffing him, and announced, “stop resisting or you’re going to get tased.” It appears from the video, however, that the man was neither interfering nor resisting. A protester in a wheelchair who was live streaming the protest was also arrested. Another officer moved several people with cameras away from the scene of the arrests, warning them against interfering and urging them to back up or else be arrested for Failure to Obey. The sergeant shouted at those filming that they would be arrested for Manner of Walking if they did not back away out of the street, even though it appears from the video recordings that the protesters and those recording were on the sidewalk at most, if not all, times. Six people were arrested during this incident.
Remember, multiply by six and you have the equivalent of a wild night out in Branson.
Duly noting our wheelchair-bound friend from the last encounter, we have arrived at the ad-hoc definition of Manner of Walking: Ambulatory While Black.