Justice Dept. Targets Ferguson for Racial Bias

The city of Ferguson — made infamous after numerous protests last year over the shooting death of Michael Brown — will have all eyes on it again when the Justice Department releases their full findings on its police department and their history of racial discrimination.

According to The New York Times, the Justice Department has almost finished their “highly critical report” that accuses the embattled police department of singling out African Americans for discriminatory traffic stops.

The New York Times reports that the DOJ’s findings include that blacks are ticketed and arrested more often and that the fines levied against them are used to balance the city’s budget. Ferguson — a suburb of St. Louis, Mo. — has mostly African American residents, but its police force and government is nearly all white.

From the NYT:

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 is expected to be released as soon as this week. Once the report is issued, Ferguson will have the options of either working out a settlement between the police department and the DOJ, or it will face a Civil Rights lawsuit.