DOJ: Ferguson PD engaged in racially biased policing (but Wilson won’t be charged)

A U.S. Justice Department investigation found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson, Missouri, police department according to law enforcement officials familiar with the report. (March 3) AP

The Ferguson Police Department often charged its black residents with petty crimes. African Americans accounted for 95% of the people charged with walking in the street and 92% of people charged with disturbing the peace.

Investigators also recovered racially charged e-mails sent among employees of the police department and the Ferguson Municipal Court, which authorities said contributed to the alleged bias. You can read them here.

The Justice findings, while not unexpected, come six months after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white. The incident prompted waves of protest across the country and a re-examination of law enforcement’s relationships with minority communities.

A separate inquiry into that incident is underway. That inquiry, Officials have said it is unlikely to result in charges against Wilson, who has left the department. A St. Louis County grand jury elected late last year not to indict Wilson in the shooting.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and Police Chief Thomas Jackson were among a contingent of city officials who met with Justice representatives Tuesday in St. Louis to receive the government’s findings.

“At this time, the city is currently reviewing the report and its findings,” said a statement issued by the city; it added that a fuller response would come Wednesday, when the complete report is expected to be disclosed..

“This confirms what we have previously stated, that the actions of the killer of Michael Brown had to do with a systemic problem within the Ferguson Police Department,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said of the Justice findings. “The report shows that there were others treated inappropriately like we feel Mike Brown was treated inappropriately.”

Similar cases in other cities indicate such problems are widespread, Crump said.

“We have to work on a remedy to address this multi-city, multi-state epidemic all across America that has such adverse effects on communities of color and that is taking the lives of citizens,” he said.

Ferguson resident Iyanla Doyle, 24, said the findings confirm what she’s already witnessed from living in the city.

“It’s beyond sad because Michael Brown wasn’t the first black male who was killed by a police officer and he’s not going to be the last,” Doyle said. “They should look at all these police departments because everyone might be doing the same thing.”

She hopes the government will disband the Ferguson Police Department and bring in an outside agency.

“We need officers who really care about people instead of making money and locking people up,” she said.

DeRay McKesson, 29, a Minneapolis schools human relations executive who joined the Ferguson protests, agrees.

“The Ferguson Police Department shouldn’t exist,” McKesson said. “They have proven themselves incompetent and racist.”

The report shows Wilson “was not an exception, but he was the rule,” McKesson said. “Systems and structures influence the way people act. And, the systems and structures in Ferguson empowered and protected Darren Wilson.”​

Kevin Johnson and Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger

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