DOJ Finds Ferguson Police Routinely Discriminate

DOJ Finds Ferguson Police Routinely Discriminate

FERGUSON, Mo. -- A forthcoming Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department has found that city officials engage in practices that discriminate against black residents and routinely violate the Constitution and federal law, according to officials familiar with the results of the investigation.

The formal report, expected to be released Wednesday, largely blames the Missouri city for breeding mistrust of the police through its policies. The report is particularly critical of ticketing practices in Ferguson, which like many other municipalities in St. Louis County, relies heavily on its local court system to generate revenue for the city.

African-Americans were overwhelmingly those charged with certain petty offenses that particularly depend on officers' judgment, according to the forthcoming report. Between 2011 and 2013, African-Americans made up 95 percent of those charged in Ferguson with improper “manner of walking in roadway,” 94 percent of those charged with “failure to comply,” and 92 percent of those charged with disturbance of the peace. Black residents account for just 67 percent of the city's population.

A Ferguson official told The Huffington Post that city and Justice Department officials met at a federal building in downtown St. Louis to discuss the results of the investigation on Tuesday. The so-called “pattern or practice” investigation of the Ferguson police had been announced by the Justice Department in September, just weeks after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The federal investigation was based on reviews of thousands of pages of records, on-site visits and interviews with members of the community. It found that police in Ferguson routinely made arrests without probable cause and that blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched during vehicle stops but less likely to be found in possession of contraband. It found that 88 percent of documented use-of-force incidents were against African-Americans, including all 14 documented police dog bites from 2012 to 2014.

The investigation also found evidence of racial bias among police officers and municipal court officials. One message circulated on an official Ferguson email system in November 2008 said that President Barack Obama wouldn't be president long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

Ferguson officials declined to formally respond to the findings of the report until it is released.

Mariah Stewart reported from Ferguson; Ryan J. Reilly reported from Washington, D.C.

This story has been updated with further information about the investigation's findings.

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