March 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm #7528VitalogyParticipant
Investigators from the agency’s Civil Rights Division found that Ferguson’s black citizens, who make up about 67 percent of the city’s 21,000 residents, made up 85 percent of traffic stops, and 93 percent of all arrests from 2012 to 2014. Black drivers were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched during traffic stops, but were less likely to be found holding anything illegal. Blacks were also the focus of 88 percent of instances in which police used force to subdue someone.
A similar pattern emerged inside Ferguson’s municipal court, where data indicated that the town targeted blacks for arrests on outstanding warrants to appear in court, the Justice Department said. From October 2012 to October 2014, 96 percent of those arrested during traffic stops solely because of an outstanding warrant were black, investigators found.
Blacks were also far more likely to be hit with petty offenses like jaywalking, disturbing the peace and “failure to comply,” according to investigators. From 2011 to 2013, blacks accounted for 92 percent or more of people who faced such charges.
Blacks were also 68 percent less likely than people of other races to have their cases dismissed, the investigators found.
Seeking an explanation for those discrepancies, investigators from the Civil Rights Division blamed a sustained focus on generating revenue as the expense of citizens’ constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. The charge that the city relies on more than any other was for failing to show up at a scheduled court date. In 2013 alone, the court collected $442,901 in fines for “failure to appear,” which accounted for a quarter of the municipal court’s revenue that year. The “failure to appear” charge was dropped by the city in September.
The burden of this landed disproportionately on the town’s poorest citizens, many of whom fell into massive debt, lost their drivers licenses, could not keep a job, or ended up behind bars, investigators found. As of December 2014, 16,000 people had outstanding arrest warrants issued by the Ferguson Municipal Court, most of them for minor violations such as parking and traffic infractions.
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