In August of 2014, a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old black man, in Ferguson, Missouri. According to a recent study, Brown’s race rendered him 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer’s bullet than had he been a young, white man. Broad public criticism of the shooting and of a grand jury’s failure to indict the officer intensified at the local and national levels, prompting the Department of Justice to launch an investigation of the policing practices in Ferguson.
In this course, we will read the resulting report, released in March 2015, which details the mechanisms and motivations of “unlawful law enforcement” and the impact of predatory and racially discriminatory policing practices on the Ferguson community. Our challenge will be to read this document as a report focused on one American city, but also to place it within a larger context of racial injustice and the use of force. Students will be working with annotation tools to contribute their own supporting materials and context (such as text comments, videos, or links to online sources), in the hopes of collectively creating a living version of the Ferguson Report.