FERGUSON, Missouri (AP) — Police antagonized crowds that gathered to protest last year’s fatal shooting of a young black man by a white officer in Ferguson, violated free-speech rights and made it difficult to hold officers accountable, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report summary obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The shooting kicked off a wave of national anger over police behavior, especially with black men, which has not yet calmed.
The summary suggests that the unrest that followed the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was aggravated by the community’s hostility toward Ferguson police and worsened when authorities didn’t quickly divulge details of his death, the newspaper reported Tuesday.
The summary is part of a longer report to be delivered this week to top police officials in Ferguson, nearby St. Louis city and county and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“Had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened,” according to the document.
The report also found that police “underestimated the impact social media had on the incident and the speed at which both facts and rumors were spread and failed to have a social media strategy.”
Brown was fatally shot Aug. 9 by officer Darren Wilson, who is white. A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to prosecute Wilson, who later resigned, but another Justice Department report released in March was critical of Ferguson police and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system.
The new report looks at the way agencies responded in the first 16 days after the shooting and is separate from other federal civil rights inquiries into Brown’s death and the policing practices of the Ferguson force.
The new report, which the newspaper said is subject to revision, cited other problems: The use of dogs for crowd control incited fear and anger, and the Justice Department suggested that the practice be prohibited. The report also said that tear gas was sometimes used without warning on people who had nowhere to retreat.
The full report is expected to contain about 45 findings, each including a recommendation for improvement, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The city of Ferguson issued a statement saying officials are “reviewing these latest findings and will act accordingly.” Other authorities did not yet comment.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.