US Justice Department finds racial bias in Ferguson police practices

Demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson police department as they remember Michael Brown on Martin Luther King Jr Day on Jan 19, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. The US Justice Department said on Tuesday it has concluded that the Ferguson, Missouri pol
Demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson police department as they remember Michael Brown on Martin Luther King Jr Day on Jan 19, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. The US Justice Department said on Tuesday it has concluded that the Ferguson, Missouri police department routinely engages in racially biased practices. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Justice Department on Tuesday concluded that the Ferguson, Missouri police department routinely engages in racially biased practices, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department’s findings.

The investigation into the police department began in August after the shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson sparked national protests.

The findings are expected to be formally released as early as Wednesday, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The findings will be used by the Justice Department to either negotiate with Ferguson officials and enter a consent decree or, if negotiations fail, sue the city.

Analysis of over 35,000 pages of police records found that African Americans make up 93 per cent of arrests in Ferguson while accounting for only 67 per cent of the city’s population, the official said.

African-Americans also made up the majority of the incidents in which officers used force and all of the incidents where dogs bit citizens, the official said.

In the city’s court system, African Americans were less likely to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge and made up 95 per cent of people held longer than two days in the Ferguson jail.

The Ferguson Municipal Court, which Attorney General Eric Holder has previously criticised for unfairly penalising the city’s poor, issued the majority of its warrants for minor violations such as parking, traffic and housing code violations.