According to the forthcoming report on the Justice Department's investigation into the Ferguson, Mo. police department for alleged civil rights violations, the department has demonstrated a history of racial profiling that has intensified race relations in the St. Louis suburb.
The investigation was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder last September after the shooting and killing of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, and the ensuing violent protests that erupted in the city in the days thereafter.
Officials familiar with the report tell the New York Times that the Justice Department has found the Ferguson police department to be pulling over and ticketing a disproportionate number of the city's black residents and using those incurring fines to pad the city's budget:
Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.
For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city's second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans.
The report, to be released as early as this week, the Times reports, "will force Ferguson officials to either negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department or face being sued by it on civil rights charges."
[Image via AP]