Officials: US report finds racial bias in Ferguson police

FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury's decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. A Justice Department investigation has found patterns of racial bias in the Ferguson police department and at the municipal jail and court. The full report, to be publicly released on March 4, says the investigation found Ferguson officers disproportionately used excessive force against blacks and too often charged them with petty offenses. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

Among the findings of the report was 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.”

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.

 

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