In a Friday morning interview on SiriusXM’s “Urban View” channel, President Obama made it clear that Ferguson, Missouri’s racist police practices are not unique, and that other police departments around the country may behave similarly. The President said he did not think what happened in Ferguson was necessarily “typical” of American policing, but he added “it’s not an isolated incident,” either. On the Joe Madison Radio Show, Obama stated:
I think that there are circumstances in which trust between communities and law enforcement have broken down, and individuals or entire departments may not have the training or the accountability to make sure that they’re protecting and serving all people and not just some… I don’t think that is typical of what happens across the country, but it’s not an isolated incident.
To African-Americans in many American cities, President Obama is merely stating the obvious. While the spotlight has been shined upon Ferguson’s abusive system of law enforcement, that pattern is being replicated, outside the glare of the media and the U.S. Justice Department, in many other municipalities.
The practice of heavy-handed law enforcement directed at African-Americans, combined with turning jails into the equivalent of modern-day debtors prisons isn’t unique to Ferguson. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that those tactics are endemic throughout St. Louis County. While Ferguson, along with the town of Jennings, were viewed as the worst offenders, abusive police practices and questionable enforcement objectives are widespread throughout the entire county, with African-Americans disproportionately targeted for arrest in most locations. Not only is Ferguson not unique nationally, it is not even alone in its county as a city that oppresses its African-American residents.
Obama’s comments will undoubtedly draw criticism from conservatives who will accuse him of race-baiting, for acknowledging that Ferguson’s racist practices are not an isolated local problem, but rather part of a larger national pattern of improper policing. While Ferguson may not be a “typical” American community, the President recognizes that it also is not as “atypical” as it should be. Racism continues to infect police departments and court rooms in cities and towns across America. The President has simply stated the obvious. How Americans respond to the obvious, will determine whether the nation is serious about police reform, or whether we will dismissively turn a blind eye to injustice, until the next conflagration.