Ferguson Police Showed Racial Bias: Justice Department Report

Report says authorities also used excessive force

Police advance through a cloud of tear gas toward demonstrators protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 17th, 2014. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

Police in Ferguson, Missouri have shown racial bias and used excessive force over the past two years, according to a new report the Justice Department compiled. The New York Times reports that the authorities disregarded the constitutional rights of the city's black citizens.

The government began its investigation following the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by white policeman Darren Wilson last August. It uncovered a number of disturbing findings and statistics, including officials making racist jokes on their city e-mail accounts – demonstrating the racial stereotypes authority figures there held – and a high amount of unjustified traffic stops targeting blacks.

About two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000 or so residents are black, yet African-Americans accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 93 percent of arrests, 88 percent of cases involving excessive force and 95 percent of cases where people were jailed for more than two days. Moreover, police pulled over black motorists two times as often as whites but statistically found them less likely than whites to be in possession of drugs, guns and other contraband in those cases.

The Times culled its information from a preliminary summary by a federal law enforcement official; the Justice Department's full report will likely come out on Wednesday. The Times claimed a separate report, which would clear Wilson of civil rights violations, could also come out in the near future.

With the report out, Ferguson now faces either negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department or a lawsuit for violating the constitution.

Following Brown's death, Ferguson residents and their supporters have protested and rallied for justice, drawing attention to racial disharmony in the city. A grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson. Despite that decision, the policeman resigned from the force.