Felix Vargas read the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson, Missouri, and thought some of it sounded awfully familiar: a mostly white police department overseeing a mostly minority town; questionable uses of force; officers ill-equipped to deal with mentally ill residents.
They’re the same issues his heavily Hispanic community, the agricultural Washington city of Pasco, has confronted since the fatal police shooting of an immigrant farmworker last month.
“We know Pasco is only the most recent area where this has happened,” said Vargas, chairman of a local Hispanic business organization called Consejo Latino. “We have a national problem. We continue to struggle with this issue of policing.”
Ferguson has become an emblem of the tensions between minorities and police departments nationwide since Darren Wilson, a white officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, last summer. The Justice Department cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing, but in its report last week, it made numerous allegations against the city’s police department that included racial disparities in arrests, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement — essentially using the black community as a piggy bank to support the city’s budget through fines.
Though the report centered on Ferguson, its findings have resonated beyond the St. Louis suburbs as residents in some communities across the country say they feel they face the same struggles with their police departments and city leadership.
On Saturday, protesters took to the streets in Madison, Wisconsin, after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 19-year-old by a white police officer.Authorities said the police officer fired his weapon after he was assaulted. The officer was placed on administrative leave pending results of an investigation by an outside state agency.