To the surprise of basically no one, a U.S. Department of Justice probe into Ferguson found evidence of rampant and systemic racial discrimination in Ferguson's police and courts, according to media summaries of the upcoming report.
The report, expected to be released in full Wednesday, supports what black St. Louisans have been saying publicly since the August 9 police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson: that police disproportionately target them, violate their Constitutional rights and contribute to the racial enmity that spurred protests against police brutality across the region last year.
Two-thirds of Ferguson's population is black. But the DOJ report finds that blacks account for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of police use-of-force cases. All fourteen canine bite incidents in which racial information was recorded happened to black suspects. Black drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to be searched by police, despite the fact that blacks are less likely to be found in possession of drugs, guns or other contraband.
Ferguson city officials fueled the climate of discrimination by spouting racial stereotypes, sometimes in emails from their official accounts, according to information leaked to the media about the report.
In a November 2008 email, an unidentified Ferguson police or court official stated that President Barack Obama won't be president for long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years?"
Another email from a Ferguson official written in May 2011 says: "An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, 'Crimestoppers.' "
Crimestoppers is the nonprofit that rewards tipsters for helping police catch suspects.
Federal investigators launched the probe into Ferguson police tactics soon after Brown's death, reviewing hundreds of interviews and 35,000 pages of police records. If the Ferguson Police Department refuses to change its ways after this scathing report, the justice department can sue them to force changes.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.