The Justice Dept. Report /Pattern or Practice

Posted: March 6, 2015 in The Film

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The Justice Department released the Pattern or Practice Report on the findings in Ferguson Missouri.

Attorney General Holder first announced the comprehensive pattern or practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department after visiting that community in August 2014, and hearing directly from residents about police practices and the lack of trust between FPD and those they are sworn to protect.  The investigation focused on the FPD’s use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; and treatment of detainees inside Ferguson’s city jail by Ferguson police officers.

In the course of its pattern or practice investigation, the Civil Rights Division reviewed more than 35,000 pages of police records; interviewed and met with city, police and court officials, including the FPD’s chief and numerous other officers; conducted hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews, as well as participated in meetings with community members and groups; observed Ferguson Municipal Court sessions, and; analyzed FPD’s data on stops, searches and arrests.  It found that the combination of Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, along with racial bias, has a profound effect on the FPD’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal law.  The department also found that these patterns created a lack of trust between the FPD and significant portions of Ferguson’s residents, especially African Americans.

The department found that the FPD has a pattern or practice of:

  • Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
  • Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The department found that Ferguson Municipal Court has a pattern or practice of:

  • Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
  • Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty.Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.

The department found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court:

  • The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans and that this disproportionate impact is avoidable.
  • Ferguson’s harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

The findings are laid out in a 100-page report that discusses the evidence and what remedies should be implemented to end the pattern or practice. The findings include two sets of recommendations, 26 in total, that the Justice Department believes are necessary to correct the unconstitutional FPD and Ferguson Municipal Court practices.  The recommendations include: changing policing and court practices so that they are based on public safety instead of revenue; improving training and oversight; changing practices to reduce bias, and; ending an over-reliance on arrest warrants as a means of collecting fines.

The full report from the Justice Department can be found here:

http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report_1.pdf

 

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