The Federal Justice Department has found that the Ferguson Police Department engaged in patterns of racially biased policing, but will not file federal civil rights charges against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Junior on August 9, 2014. Attorney General Eric Holder said Brown’s death did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.
“This outcome is supported by the facts that we have found, but I also know that these findings may not be consistent with some people’s expectations,” said Holder. “To all those who have closely followed this case and who have engaged in the important national dialogue it has inspired, I urge you, I urge you, to read this report in full.”
The decision to not indict Wilson was leaked last week by law enforcement officials familiar with the case.
On Wednesday the Department released a comprehensive 86 page report that details its investigation of the fatal shooting. Federal statues require that the government must prove that Wilson used unreasonable force and did so knowing that it was unlawful.
“The promise that I made when I went to Ferguson and at the time when we launched our investigation, was not that we would arrive at a particular outcome, but rather that we would pursue the facts wherever they led,” said Holder. “Our investigation has been both fair and rigorous from the start.”
A separate 105 page report outlined findings from police reports made by the Ferguson Police Department about the policing practices and arrest disparities among black and white Ferguson citizens. According to the Justice Department, Ferguson Police purposely targeted black citizens in stops, searches, and arrests solely based on the color of their skin. Holder suggests that many of the stops could be constitutionally justified, but many of them ended with citizen constitutional rights being violated, saying many arrests made were for minor infractions such as jaywalking.
Holder said violence is never justified, but one could see how violence erupted in this intensely charged atmosphere and some of those protesters were right.
“Amid a highly toxic environment defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it’s not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the City of Ferguson like a powder keg,” said Holder.
Holder said there was overriding pressure from the city of Ferguson to use law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue.
“According to our investigation, this emphasis on revenue generation through policing has fostered unconstitutional practices or practices that contribute to constitutional violations at nearly every level of Ferguson’s law enforcement system,” said Holder.
The U.S. Justice Department is asking the City of Ferguson to make 26 changes to the city’s police department and municipal courts. A few of those recommendations include training officers not to use bias in policing, using police stops focused on community safety, and ending the use of random search/stops to raise money for city funds.
Department of Justice officials have met with top officials in Ferguson to discuss its investigation and recommendations. No timetable has been established on when improvements must be completed. The Department has the option of a lawsuit to force changes on the city if an agreement is not made in the coming months.