Eric Holder and the Department of Justice on Wednesday released a 102-page report revealing continual racial discrimination against African Americans by the Ferguson Police Department and other city officials. Holder said the tensions between the police and Ferguson residents that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown were not surprising given the toxic environment created by the bias of the Ferguson Police Department.
The Justice Department announced it would not charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson with civil rights abuses. The DOJ also released a report that detailed the ways in which the Ferguson Police Department created fear and resentment among African-American residents in the Missouri town by disproportionately targeting them with fines, tickets and excessive force. Holder said the violations within the police department were widespread.
The investigation, launched after the August shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, found that the department violated the Fourth Amendment in instances such as making traffic stops without reasonable suspicion and making arrests without probable cause. The DOJ claims the discrimination was triggered partly by racial bias and stereotypes about African Americans, a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Report reveals a November 2008 email on an official Ferguson municipal account which joked that President Obama would not be president for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?”
From 2012 to 2014, the report discovered African-Americans comprised 85 percent of people pulled over for a traffic stop; 90 percent of those given citations; and 93 percent of arrests. Also, African-American drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white drivers, but that those black drivers were 26 percent less likely to be found to be holding contraband. The Justice Department has conducted 20 civil rights investigations of police departments during the tenure of Eric Holder as Attorney General, including Newark, Cleveland and Albuquerque. Majority of the investigations end with the police departments agreeing to change their practices.
Michael Brown’s family attorney Ben Crump released a statement saying if the reports about the findings are true they “confirm what Michael Brown’s family has believed all along, and that is that the tragic killing of an unarmed 18-year-old black teenager was part of a systemic pattern of inappropriate policing of African-American citizens in the Ferguson community.” Holder added that the DOJ report recommends that the Ferguson Police Department get residents more involved in policing decisions and implement better ways of tracking “stop, search, ticketing and arrest practices.” The report also recommends reforming the town’s municipal court, including “modifications to bond amounts and detention procedures; an end to the use of arrest warrants as a means of collecting owed fines and fees; and compliance with due process requirements.” Justice Department officials briefed Ferguson leaders about their findings in St. Louis.