Report: Justice Department to Cite Ferguson PD for Racial Bias

The Department of Justice is expected to release its report on the policing practices of the Ferguson Police Department as early as this week, according to The New York Times. Law-enforcement officials told the Times that the report will accuse the department of making discriminatory traffic stops that created years of racial animosity, leading to the shooting death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown last August.

Sources said that the report will criticize the FPD for disproportionately ticketing and arresting Black residents, and then relying on fines to balance the city’s budget.

Sources said the report will also mention a racist email that was circulated among city officials.

As previously reported, the report will force the FPD to change its practices or face a lawsuit from the DOJ. Also, as expected, the DOJ will not charge Officer Darren Wilson with any civil-rights violations.

Last month, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told CNN, “Everything [the DOJ] suggested in the past has been reasonable and we have tried to comply.”

Brown’s death served as ground zero for several months of protests and harder looks at police brutality and racial profiling around the country. The DOJ report supposedly will describe the growing anger and frustration of a largely Black populace served by a largely white police force and city council.

At the time of Brown’s shooting, only three of Ferguson’s 53 police officers were Black. Five of six city council members are white, as is the mayor.

According to the most recent statistics released by the Missouri attorney general’s office, Blacks were the subject of 86 percent of stops by the Ferguson police in 2013 even though they only make up 63 percent of the population. Moreover, Black drivers were more likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers produced more contraband.

Residents who cannot pay their fines face prison time and additional fines. These fines are the city’s second-largest revenue source after its sales tax, giving police financial incentive to further target Black drivers.

In its report, the DOJ does not need to prove that the tactics were racially motivated or that Blacks were intentionally targeted; it only needs to show that the tactics had a disparate—and avoidable—impact on Blacks.

The report is said to resemble last summer’s report on racially biased policing in Newark, N.J., where Blacks also were disproportionately targeted by that city’s police force, rather than others that leveled charges of excessive force.

Ferguson has taken preliminary steps to improve the diversity of its city council and its police force.

Last week, Mayor James Knowles III criticized the Department of Justice for the leaks about the report. “How come they haven’t told us there is something that needs to be changed as they found it” Knowles asked. “Why have they allowed whatever they think is happening to continue to happen for six months if that’s the case”

He added: “The City of Ferguson is going to make its decisions based on what its residents and the people in this region feel is necessary to move us forward.”

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