In his first public comments on Ferguson since the Department of Justice released a scathing report Wednesday condemning the city for repeatedly violating its black residents’ constitutional and civil rights, President Barack Obama cautioned that the struggle for civil rights remains “unfinished.”
“I don’t think that is typical of what happens across the country, but it’s not an isolated incident,” Obama said Friday on “The Joe Madison Radio Show,” according to the Associated Press. “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.”
The 103-page report, the culmination of a months-long investigation following the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, found the city police department fostered a culture of racial hostility that included unreasonable searches and seizures, racial slurs, and the excessive use of force.
The Ferguson judicial system was denounced for predatory fining policies that used black residents as a moneymaking scheme to bolster the municipal budget.
Although the DOJ concluded in a parallel investigation that there was not enough evidence to charge Wilson for civil rights violations, the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death remain at the center of a larger conversation about racial bias and policing reform that has grown into a national movement to improve relations between law enforcement and minority communities.
That effort “requires collective action and mobilization,” Obama said Friday, linking the struggle in Ferguson to previous moments in America’s civil rights history.
The president’s radio interview coincided with his upcoming trip Selma, Alabama, where he is set to speak Saturday alongside hundreds of other lawmakers and community leaders to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a major civil rights protest on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Civil rights “is an unfinished project,” Obama told radio host Tom Joyner in a separate interview. “There is work to be done right now.”