DOJ Investigation Finds Pattern of Racist Policing in Ferguson

DOJ Investigation Finds Pattern of Racist Policing in Ferguson March 4, 2015

In what might be the least surprising news ever, a Department of Justice investigation into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri found a pattern of racist policing. At the same time, it clears Darren Wilson of any civil rights violations in connection with the shooting of Michael Brown.

Police officers in Ferguson, Mo., have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents, the 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 fueled in part by racial stereotypes held by city officials. Investigators say the officials made racist jokes about blacks on their city email accounts…

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

In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans — who make up about two-thirds of the city’s population — accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.

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

You could issue an identical report on virtually every police department in the country. Study after study after study shows this exact same pattern, that blacks are far more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested than whites even though whites are more likely to be found breaking the law when they are stopped. This is almost certainly the result of implicit racism. Study after study also shows that white people almost inherently view black people as more threatening and more suspect in exhibiting normal human behavior, which is why black people are more likely to be stopped without any reasonable suspicion that they’re breaking the law. White people, on the other hand, are only likely to be stopped if there is good reason to suspect them of doing something wrong, so they’re more likely to be found to be actually breaking the law.

I’m glad this report is coming out, but no one should get the idea that this is a problem unique to Ferguson. We need serious reform of the criminal justice system because this problem is ubiquitous and systemic all over the country.


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