The report, released on Wednesday, cited “substantial evidence of racial bias among police and court staff in Ferguson,” including emails circulated by police supervisors and court staffers that contained racist jokes and racial stereotypes.
City budgets in Ferguson assume annual increases in municipal fees and fines, and police and municipal court staffers are exhorted to deliver the revenue, the report found. As a result, officers aggressively enforce the municipal code, undermining community trust and cooperation, according to the report.
“Many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” the report says.
“The result is a pattern of stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
From 2012 to 2014, African Americans accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops by Ferguson officers, 90 percent of citations and 93 percent of arrests, though they represent 67 percent of Ferguson’s population.
In addition, African Americans were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by the municipal court. Missed appearances in this court and failure to pay fines for municipal violations resulted in arrest warrants and, until recently, increased fines.
“Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing,” the report said.
The report was the result of a civil-rights probe launched by the U.S. Justice Department after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer led to widespread protests and some violence. The officer will not face federal civil-rights charges, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
A Washington Post story lists the seven racist emails cited in the Justice Department report, including one that depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.