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Chris Lanier

An Anatomy of Institutional Racism

A longstanding defense of American policing is that, when an officer is caught abusing their power, it can be explained away as the problem of “one bad apple” – in other words, it’s the fault of an individual corrupt officer.

The investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, painted a very different picture. The DOJ report revealed, in painstaking detail, the way policies and procedures in the department created racist outcomes and abuses of power. It’s a microcosm of the way policing can go wrong, from the criminalization of poverty to the unchecked use of excessive force.

Chris Lanier created this comic adaptation of the Ferguson DOJ report in an attempt to make the idea of “institutional racism” both concrete and accessible. It also illustrates how the report was used in Ferguson over the past six years – reviewing the successes and failures of the movement for change. In that story are lessons and cautionary tales for the current movement for police reform in the US, spurred by the on-camera police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This comic can be downloaded as a single, multi-page PDF at this link.

A bibliography of linked sources for the comic can be downloaded here.

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