Investigation causes uproar in Ferguson

Clay Dubberly, ‘Doah Staff Writer
March 18, 2015

Tensions are high in Ferguson, Missouri, the city at the center of conflict over police and race after two police officers were shot last Wednesday.

A newly released Department of Justice report shows that the Ferguson police department may have been systematically targeting Americans of color for use of force, traffic stops and jail sentences, according to a U.S. official briefed on the investigation.

The report, which was not about the death of Michael Brown, investigates how the Ferguson police department conducts their job. The report shows a pattern of racial bias.

Investigating the underlying tension and mistrust following the death of Michael Brown, in the two years before the death of Michael Brown, 88 percent of force applied was on African-Americans, as well as 93 percent of the people arrested. African-Americans also make up 92 percent of cases with warrants, 95 percent of people jailed for more than two days and 85 percent of vehicle stops.

Police and court employees’ emails were revealed showing prejudices and stereotypes, such as comparing African-Americans to chimpanzees and joking about a black woman’s abortion being an effective crime-deterrent.

Routine traffic stops between African-Americans and police also quickly escalated, and Ferguson officers have been using tasers and police dogs in excess. An example cited a man who was pulled over and had a dog unleashed on him after he had already been frisked.

The Ferguson local government also budgeted for large increases in municipal fines and fees each year, which meant that officers had to push harder to meet their quotas.

One African-American woman was arrested twice, spent six days and jail and fined $550 because she parked her car illegally once in 2007 and failed to appear in court and make payments.

Emails revealed showed an officer joking about President Obama not making it to his next term because “what black man holds a steady job for 4 years?” An April email showed Obama depicted as a chimpanzee. A June 2011 email described a man looking to qualify for “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their daddies are.” A December 2011 email also made stereotypical jokes about Muslims.

Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson said, “Apparently, there has been this undertow that has bubbled to the surface. It’s our priority to address it and to fix what’s been going wrong.”

St. Louis is one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation. Two-thirds of the cities residents are black, which is an increase from 2,000, when blacks only made up half the population. White residents who had formerly accounted for 44 percent of the population, now only make up under 30 percent.

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