Obama: Racial discrimination not limited to Ferguson

President says civil rights violations in Ferguson is not typical but neither was it 'a complete aberration.'

Discriminatory acts by law enforcement cited in a recent Justice Department report about the Ferguson, Missouri, police department are not typical but not limited to that city either, President Barack Obama said Friday.

 “I don’t think that what happens in Ferguson is typical,” Obama said but neither was it “a complete aberration.” 

Across the country, in different institution and contexts such as business, politics, and the law enforcement, there are unfair treatments based on ethnic background or color, the president said. 

Obama comments came during an address to Benedict College students, in Columbia, South Carolina.

The president was on his way to Selma, Alabama, along with hundreds of lawmakers and community leaders to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a major civil rights protest on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“I think 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,” he said.

A 103-page report on the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a police officer Darren Wilson, found the city’s police department fostered a culture of racial hostility that included unreasonable searches and seizures, racial slurs, and the excessive use of force.

The report, revealed Thursday, shows that while blacks make up just over two-thirds of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93 percent of arrests from 2012 to 2014; 85 percent of vehicle stops and 90 percent of citations. 

In Brown’s case, however, the Justice Department said it could not find sufficient evidence to charge Wilson with violating Brown’s civil rights. 

Responding to a student’s questions about the Department’s decision on Wilson, the president said a charge would typically be brought at the state or local level, and that a federal charge is warranted only when due process was violated.

“The standard is very high,” he said. “That was an objective, thorough, independent investigation.”

It is not possible to know exactly what happened between Wilson and Michael Brown, Obama said, but Wilson is entitled to the benefit of the process.

The effort to deal with the discrimination problem “requires collective action and mobilization,” according to Obama, as he linked the struggle in Ferguson to previous efforts to gain civil rights in the U.S.