Ferguson police routinely violated black rights, report finds

US Justice Department says discrimination partly due to racial stereotypes of city officials

 Police arresting a demonstrator protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 19th, 2014,  in Ferguson, Missouri, US. File photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Police arresting a demonstrator protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 19th, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, US. File photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

 

Police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents, the US Justice Department has concluded in a scathing report that accuses the officers of using excessive force and making unjustified traffic stops for years.

The Justice Department, which opened its investigation after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed a black teenager last summer, says the discrimination was fuelled in part by racial stereotypes held by city officials.

Investigators say the officials made racist jokes about black people on their city email accounts.

Ferguson is a largely black city with a government and police force that are mostly white.

Violent protests

After the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, the city erupted in angry, sometimes violent protests and looting.

Since then, Ferguson has been at the centre of a national debate over race and policing that has drawn in President Barack Obama, US attorney general Eric H Holder jnr and FBI director James B Comey.

The report’s findings were summarised by a federal law enforcement official. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.

A separate report is expected to clear the officer, Darren Wilson, of any civil rights violations in the shooting of Mr Brown.

Ferguson officials now face the choice of either negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department or being sued by it on charges of violating the US Constitution.

Race data

In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analysed race data compiled for every police stop.

They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans made up about two-thirds of the city’s population but accounted for 85 per cent of traffic stops, 90 per cent of citations, 93 per cent of arrests and 88 per cent of cases in which the police used force.

Black motorists were twice as likely as whites to be searched, but less likely to be found in possession of contraband such as drugs or guns.

The findings reinforce what the city’s black residents have been saying publicly for the past year: that years of discrimination and mistrust created the volatile environment that erupted after Mr Brown’s shooting.

New York Times