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The damning report that made Ferguson's police chief quit

Protesters in Ferguson on 11 March, 2015 Image copyright Getty Images

The police chief of Ferguson resigned following a damning report by the Department of Justice into his department. What were the report's main findings?

Racial bias

At each juncture in the criminal process, the law is enforced more harshly against black people than others.

  • Substantial evidence of intentional discrimination
  • Explicit racial bias in communications between police and court
  • While about two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are African American, only four of Ferguson's 54 police officers are
  • Historical hostility to African Americans living in Ferguson lingers among some police officers

Emphasis on revenue

Ferguson's police practices are shaped by a focus on maximising revenue rather than improving public safety.

  • City officials put pressure on police to issue fines to raise revenue
  • Many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson's predominantly African American areas, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue
  • For example, police accused a black man sitting in his parked car cooling off after playing basketball of being a paedophile. He was eventually charged with eight violations, including "making a false declaration" because he had given his name as Mike instead of Michael.

Unlawful court practices

The court's practices impose unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African Americans.

  • Arrest warrants are issued if fines are not paid, instead on the basis of public safety
  • Until recently, Ferguson added fines for missed court appearance and payment
  • Minor offences such as parking or driving violations can generate crippling debts, resulting in jail time because of an inability to pay.

Excessive force

Many officers are quick to escalate encounters with subjects they perceive to be disobeying their orders or resisting arrest.

  • They have come to rely on weapons such as Tasers where less force - or no force at all - would do
  • An officer used an electronic weapon against an African American woman in the Ferguson City Jail because she would not go to her cell
  • Police dogs have been released on unarmed people before attempting to use force less likely to cause injury
  • African-Americans accounted for 90% of officers' use of force

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