President Obama at a town hall meeting Friday said he has “complete confidence” in the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue a civil rights case against Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson.
The agency announced earlier this week it would not charge Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown. The DOJ’s report on the case showed that federal investigators cast serious doubt on the “hands up, don’t shoot” claims made by many of the witnesses who initially came forward in the case.
“With respect to Ferguson — keep in mind that there are two separate issues involved,” Obama told an audience at Benedict College in South Carolina.
“The finding that was made was that it was not unreasonable to determine that there was not sufficient evidence to charge officer Wilson,” Obama said.
“Now, that was an objective, thorough, independent, federal investigation. We may never know exactly what happened, but officer Wilson, like anybody else who is charged with a crime, benefits from due process and a reasonable doubt standard, and if there is uncertainty about what happened, then you can’t just charge him anyway just because what happened was tragic.”
Obama explained that the federal government’s role in such an investigation is to make sure that the state and local investigations, which exonerated Wilson, weren’t the “completely wrong decision.”
“They don’t retry the whole thing all over again, they look to see whether or not at the state level due process and the investigation was conducted, and the standard for overturning that or essentially coming in on top of the state decision is very high,” Obama said.
“Now, that was the decision that was made and I have complete confidence and stand fully behind the decision that was made by the Justice Department on that issue.”
Obama shifted to another finding that came out of Ferguson, this one pertaining to a separate “patterns and practices” investigation conducted by the DOJ as well.
“There, the finding was very clear,” Obama said. “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.”
The Justice Department’s report found that city police were biased against black citizens. The report contained anecdotes of police officers using dogs against teenagers. In one incident, a black man said that when a police officer stopped him without cause and he refused to exit his vehicle, the officer falsely accused him of being a pedophile before arresting him at gunpoint.