The U.S. Justice Department has reportedly concluded that the Ferguson Police Department has for years practiced discriminatory policing tactics, creating a culture of "racial animosity" in the lead up to the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown last summer.
The findings, which are expected to be released as early as this week, are the conclusion of a months-long federal investigation into the department. Speaking under anonymity, law enforcement officials briefed on the report told the New York Times that the "highly critical" assessment charges the local police department with "disproportionately ticketing and arresting African-Americans and relying on the fines to balance the city’s budget."
According to the most recent data (pdf) published by the Missouri attorney general, in 2013, Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson but compromise 63 percent of the population. Further, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched by the police department, which is 95 percent white.
Last month, reports indicated that the DOJ will not bring charges of civil rights violations against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Despite that, the federal probe is intended to examine the "broader practices" of the department in order to "give context for the shooting."
Citizens of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri have recently launched suits charging the cities with extortionary policing practices, arguing that by jailing residents who are unable to pay traffic tickets and other fines the local jails are being used as "debtors' prisons."
According to the unnamed officials, the DOJ says such practices have provided a "financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans."
The Times says that the damning report will likely force the city to "either negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department or face being sued by it on civil rights charges."