There are 400 pages of documents that have been identified by the U.S. Department of Justice as being related to an investigation conducted by its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson, and a great majority of the pages were either totally or partially redacted before being released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch made that FOIA request almost three years ago—on Nov. 17, 2014—and reports that in response, DOJ FOIA Officer Chaun Eason determined that only 55 pages out of the total 400 were totally releasable to the newspaper. The 55 pages that were turned over did not contain any revelatory information—it was mostly COPS office communications about travel to St. Louis, talking-points memos and press releases.
Of the 400 pages identified by the Justice Department as being related to the work COPS did in Ferguson, 280 were totally redacted and made no reference to who created them, for whom they were intended or the topic of the material that was withheld.
The DOJ says that “third-party privacy” is the reason for many of the redactions. Other materials were said to be being withheld under “deliberative process protections” as defined under federal law.
Under the Obama administration, COPS conducted investigations of individual police departments and issued its own report of what was wrong within those departments. After completing its investigation in Ferguson, it released a 182-page report in late 2015 on the St. Louis County Police.
The Justice Department recently discontinued that investigation program.
So why are so many of the documents redacted?
The DOJ’s response is vague at best. It’s obvious, based on the published report, that there were a great many problems found with policing in St. Louis County, but what specifically is the Justice Department attempting to keep the public from knowing or seeing?
Unfortunately, under a Trump administration and a Jeff Sessions-led DOJ, we may never find out no matter how many FOIA requests are submitted.
Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.