VIDEO: Justice Dept. Seeks Overhaul of Ferguson Police over Systemic Racial Bias

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It remains to be seen how much of this plan will be realized and how much was just campaign rhetoric

after finding systemic discrimination against African-American residents. A comprehensive report says police disproportionately stopped, arrested and used force against blacks without reasonable suspicion, and then acted as a “collection agency” to operate off of their fines. Unveiling the probe’s findings, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder described how residents were targeted for arrest and then saddled with penalties.

Attorney General Eric Holder: “Some officers even compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop, a total that in at least one instance rose as high as 14. And we have observed that even minor code violations can sometimes result in multiple arrests, jail time and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over. Now, for example, in 2007, one woman received two parking tickets that together totaled $152. To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city of Ferguson. She has been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, and she has spent six days in jail. Yet today she still, inexplicably, owes Ferguson $541.”

The report details many other examples of police harassment, abuse and racial profiling of African Americans. Dogs were let loose only on blacks and sometimes without warning. One man was accused of being a pedophile for sitting in his car after playing basketball in a public park. After objecting to a car search, he was arrested at gunpoint on charges that ultimately cost him his job as a federal contractor. Other instances were found of Taser attacks without cause and people called the N-word. Saying the racial bias was pervasive, Attorney General Holder demanded “wholesale and structural corrective action.”

Attorney General Eric Holder: “A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue; a community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to be disproportionately harmful to African-American residents; a community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias, both implicit and explicit. Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time. It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action. Now let me be very clear: The United States Department of Justice reserves all of its rights and abilities to force compliance and to implement basic change. Nothing is off the table.”

The Justice Department says it will take legal action if Ferguson does not comply with its demands, which include a “shift from policing to raise revenue to policing in partnership with the entire Ferguson community.” In a statement, the St. Louis-based organization Don’t Shoot Coalition said: “Now that the lived experience of our community being regularly targeted and harassed by law enforcement has been acknowledged, we hope the Ferguson Police Department will be brought to justice through a DOJ lawsuit that results in federal oversight.”

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