7 clear ways Ferguson police violated the Constitution, according to DOJ

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ferguson-FB2WASHINGTON — A Justice Department investigation will allege sweeping patterns of discrimination within the Ferguson, Missouri, police department and at the municipal jail and court, law enforcement officials familiar with the report said Tuesday.

The report, which could be released as soon as Wednesday, will charge that police disproportionately use excessive force against blacks and that black drivers are stopped and searched far more often than white motorists, even though they’re less likely to be carrying contraband.

The Justice Department also found that blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge, and that from April to September of last year, 95 percent of people kept at the city jail for more than two days were black, according to the officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record before the report is made public.

The Justice Department began the civil rights investigation following the August shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer. That killing set off weeks of protests.

The officials say the report will allege direct evidence of racial bias among police officers and court workers and detail a criminal justice system that prioritizes generating revenue over public safety.

The months-long investigation also found:

  • Ferguson’s black drivers were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped and searched, according to records over two years. Black drivers were also 26 percent less likely to be found in possession of contraband.
  • According to the police department’s internal records concerning force, 88 percent of those cases involved force against blacks. More so, all 14 canine bite incidents involved blacks.
  • Blacks are 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed in municipal court. An arrest warrant was more likely to be issued for blacks.
  • The Justice Department found that the court uses petty crime charges to pad the city’s budget. As of December 2014, 16,000 out of Ferguson’s 21,000 residents have outstanding warrants for minor violations, including traffic tickets.
  • A racially tinged 2008 message in a municipal email account stating that President Barack Obama would not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • Over a six-month period in 2014, 95 percent of inmates who spent more than two days in the Ferguson jail were black.
  • Petty offenses disproportionately target black citizens. 95 percent of all “Manner of Walking in Roadway” charges were against blacks.

The department has conducted roughly 20 broad civil rights investigations of police departments during the tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder, including Cleveland, Newark, New Jersey and Albuquerque. Most of those investigations end with the police department agreeing to changes its practices.