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Why Has the Justice Department Redacted a Great Majority of Its Documents Related to Ferguson?

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 Police Officer Darrin Wilson, and a great majority of them 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 DOJ as being related to the work COPS did in Ferguson, 280 were totally redacted and made no reference to who created them, whom they were intended for 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 is wrong within those departments. After completing its investigation in Ferguson, it released a 182-page report in late 2015 on St. Louis county police.

That investigation program was recently discontinued by the DOJ.

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 DOJ 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.

source: the roots

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