(Judicial Watch) – A highly secretive Obama Justice Department (DOJ) unit known as the Community Relations Service (CRS) played a highly active role in the federal response to the controversy over the police shooting and subsequent riots in Ferguson, Missouri. CRS went in at the behest of the NAACP, and as one might expect from a DOJ with Eric Holder at the helm. Their actions appear to be anything but impartial.
That’s what we learned after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the DOJ on August 14, 2014, asking for records “regarding, concerning, or related to the shooting death of Michael Brown” and “records of communication between any official or employee of the Community Relations Service and any other individual or entity regarding the shooting.”
We also asked for information pertaining to travel authorizations, vouchers, and related documents connected with officials or employees of the CRS. The answers came to us two and one-half months after the FOIA request – on October 30, 2014. The DOJ produced documents showing taxpayers were billed $15,000 for travel to send eight CRS agents, including CRS Director Grande Lum and Deputy Director Gilbert Moore. And they revealed the clearly biased role that was played once they were on the ground.
Although the CRS claims to use “impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution procedures,” the documents obtained by Judicial Watch suggest that the unit deployed to Ferguson took an active role in working with those fomenting unrest and demanding the prosecution of police officer Wilson. As indicated by their own activities, the CRS agents were not there to impartially advance the broad public interest. Instead, we learned from the documents that the CRS made every effort to advance a political agenda in tandem in special interests whose only goal was to stir up racial unrest. The CRS was initially set up with narrow, specific purposes in line with upholding civil rights. The idea was for CRS agents to conduct their activities in confidence. But, as demonstrated in Ferguson, their role has been greatly expanded during Obama’s presidency to place them front and center in organizing activities.
The FOIA documents also tell us something about the background of the CRS agents and how they worked to pursue certain policy changes.
The CRS had at least two “Conciliation Specialists,” Darryck Dean and Rita Valenciano, on the ground in Ferguson by the day after the shooting. It is worth noting, for example, that in 2007, Ms. Valenciano, who was then an advocate for illegal alien rights, helped lead an effort to remove Frances Semler from a Kansas City parks board because of Semler’s views against illegal immigration. Ms. Semler, who was appointed to the board because she was a rose gardening enthusiast, ultimately resigned in the face of unrelenting leftist pressure.
According to a Valenciano travel voucher, “The NAACP requested CRS assistance by email and phone.” The shooting occurred on August 9, 2014, and the CRS traveled to Ferguson the next day on August 10, 2014. In addition to meeting with the NAACP, the CRS also met with the chiefs of police of St. Louis County and Ferguson. The evidence here shows that the CRS was comingling its official functions with political activism detached from its central mission.
We also found that CRS was present during at least one of the Ferguson demonstrations. An August 16 expense claim is for “rain ponchos for demonstration site.” August 16, 2014, was a day of terrible rioting in Ferguson. There’s more. Several CRS vouchers state that, immediately after the shooting, CRS personnel spoke with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, who would be responsible for any federal civil rights prosecution of Officer Wilson. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of federal crimes in the Eastern District of Missouri, including crimes relating to terrorism, fraud, public corruption, firearms, narcotics, child exploitation and human trafficking,” the DOJ web site explains.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that CRS agents met with Brown’s family the day after the fatal shooting. On August 20, Attorney General Eric Holder also met with the Brown family telling them that his own encounters with the police had left him “angry and upset” adding, “I am the attorney general of the United States, but I am also a black man.”
On August 29, Dean and Valenciano moderated a “community meeting” with the NAACP that, according to St. Louis Public Radio, “also served as platform to discuss the importance of voting in affecting change.” How is this even germane to the shooting incident?
The CRS and the Justice Department under Eric Holder have made repeated efforts to undermine race-neutral policies by aligning themselves with the far-left agenda of the NAACP. We should point out that the DOJ has yet to comply with Freedom of Information Act law and provide all of the responsive documents about what it is up to in Ferguson. Our exposure of the CRS backs into previous racially charged controversies where Holder’s Justice Department has worked to inflame rather than ameliorate racial tensions.
In July 2013, Judicial Watch released DOJ documents in response to local, state, and federal records’ requests revealing that the CRS was deployed to Sanford, Florida, following the Trayvon Martin shooting. CRS helped organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman. On April 15, 2012, during the height of the Sanford protests, the Orlando Sentinel quoted the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for protestors, as saying “They were there for us,” after a March 20 meeting with CRS agents.
In Ferguson, as in Sanford, the Obama-Holder CRS clearly took sides and exacerbated tensions, as innocent, law-abiding citizens watched their lives and their life’s work go up in flames.
The Obama/Holder tag team continues to fan the flames. Obama outrageously called “constructive” lawless protests in New York yesterday that resulted in 82 arrests. Holder has likened the police to “occupying forces” and is abusing the DOJ to harass local police forces with federal “civil rights” investigations. In addition to this calumny, the president’s liberal allies in the Congressional Black Caucus slandered our nation’s police this week by implying that unarmed blacks are regularly murdered by policemen.
I understand why liberal revolutionaries like Mr. Holder and the president don’t support the police. And these types of despicable politicians undermine the rule of law when they pretend that representing the “community” means giving credence to “community” concerns that are based on racial hatred and contempt for the rule of law. And many professional liberals don’t like the police because every arrest made in communities destroyed by liberal policies is politically inconvenient. The terrible scourge of crime that impacts economically-distressed black communities is largely the result of corrupt liberal policies that have torn the cords that once held even the poorest of neighborhoods together. And the police must clean up the resulting mess resulting from the liberal social experimentation and corruption. So rather than admit failure, soft-on-crime politicians who corruptly benefit from racial discord attack the police.
Judicial Watch does know that police powers can be abused. Just look at the IRS under President Obama! But this federal takeover that Obama is envisioning of police forces through the land has nothing to do with it. If you want police forces to be accountable, would you rather them be accountable to your local mayor and councilman or to a politician in Washington? Obamacare for local policing is something about which we should be vigilant.