The Washington Post finally committed acts of actual journalism and looked into the job history of Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri cop who killed unarmed Michale Brown two weeks ago. Turns out Wilson's former police department in Jennings, Missouri was so awful that it was disbanded by authorities.
The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.
That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.
Some of the Jennings officers reapplied for their jobs, but Wilson got a job in the police department in the nearby city of Ferguson.
Exactly who would hire an officer from a police department so terrible that it lost the public trust to the point where the entire department was shut down and re-created? How does a police officer in that situation get re-hired a couple of towns over?
People who know him describe him as someone who grew up in a home marked by multiple divorces and tangles with the law. His mother died when he was in high school. A friend said a career in law enforcement offered him structure in what had been a chaotic life.
What he found in Jennings, however, was a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority. It was not an ideal place to learn how to police. Officials say Wilson kept a clean record without any disciplinary action.
So a cop from a bad department moves to a controversial department with its own set of very real problems. That sounds like a great idea. And Wilson got his start in the kind of abusive, dirty cop shop that Ferguson was, only bigger.
After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.
Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.
“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”
Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach.
All the problems became too much for the city council to bear, and in March 2011 the council voted 6-to-1 to shut down the department and hire St. Louis County to run its police services, putting Lt. Jeff Fuesting in charge as commander.
St. Louis County PD. With its surplus military gear used against the people of Ferguson. This just keeps getting better. And yes, this shows a distinct pattern of rotten cops across the St. Louis area, cops with no respect for black citizens they are supposed to be protecting.
Dirty as hell.