The U.S. Department of Justice released dozens of “totally or partially” redacted documents related to Michael Brown‘s 2014 fatal shooting and Ferguson protests to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, according to a new report from the newspaper.
Almost two-thirds and a “vast majority” of the 400 documents identified by the DOJ’s COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) were totally redacted without any references to the topics covered, to the person(s) who created them or to whom they were intended for, the Post Dispatch reported. The documents’ release came nearly three years after the newspaper filed a Freedom Of Information Act request in the wake of Brown’s death, which stirred a racial storm in Ferguson.
Only 55 pages, full of “mostly mundane” COPS office communications about press releases and other “non-revelatory” material,” were “totally releasable” to the newspaper, DOJ FOIA Officer Chaun Eason concluded. “Third-party privacy” was cited as the reason for many of the redacted documents, with some material withheld under “deliberative process protections” defined under federal law, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Several documents mention the DOJ’s full involvement in Ferguson. A plan involving a COPS-led youth forum in Ferguson 11 days after Brown’s shooting took up a “significant portion” of the 65 pages of one of the documents released with partial redactions.
The DOJ had also blacked out portions of a Nov. 5, 2014, update related to Ferguson sent from a COPS official. Two recipients were not named because of “the personal privacy of third parties,” Eason said.
Other documents mentioned then-COPS director Ronald Davis traveling to St. Louis and the DOJ’s “technical assistance options” that he planned to address with local officials. Ferguson news stories were chronicled in other pages released to the Post-Dispatch as well as COPS officials setting up meetings with the Missouri congressional delegation staff members.
The documents were created by a pre-Trump Department of Justice before a strict “law-and-order” policy on backing police forces. Ferguson’s beleaguered police department and its courts had systemically violated African Americans’ constitutional rights with illegal stops, arrests and harassments, according to the Obama-era DOJ’s scathing 2015 report that forced the majority-Black city’s police force to enact reform.