United States Attorney General Eric Holder says police in Ferguson, Missouri targeted blacks and used law enforcement to raise revenue. However, the officer who killed teenager Michael Brown won't face federal charges.
Speaking to reporters following two federal investigations launched following the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, US Attorney General Eric Holder said a "searing" report released by the Justice Department described the Ferguson community as deeply polarized.
"A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue. A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents. A community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias both implicit and explicit," Holder said.
He said this combination severely undermined public trust in the police and contributed to an "intensely charged atmosphere where people felt under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them."
Brown's killing and a November grand jury decision not to prosecute Wilson sparked weeks of angry protests in Ferguson, as well as peaceful demonstrations and a deep debate about US race relations and law enforcement.
'Racial bias, excessive use of force'
The Attorney General listed several examples of discrimination from the report, including of excessive use of force resulting from stops or arrests which had no legal basis to begin with.
"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 Justice Department said.
Referring to a long list of recommendations for the town's police and courts, he said it was time for Ferguson's leaders to take "immediate, structural and wholesale" corrective action.
"Let me be clear. The United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change," Holder, who will soon hand over the job of Attorney General to Loretta Lynch, said.
He added that although the issues raised in the report may be "particularly acute" in Ferguson, they brought up nationwide questions.
Police officer will not be charged
Despite the findings of severe failings in Ferguson's law enforcement system, another report released by the Justice Department on Wednesday declared that – now former – police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, would not face federal civil rights charges.
The conclusion of an 87-page report was that the facts of the case did not support the filing of charges against Wilson.
The parents of Michael Brown said they were disappointed by the decision but encouraged by the calls to hold police accountable.
"It is our hope that through this action, true change will come not only in Ferguson, but around the country," they said in a statement. "If that change happens, our son's death will not have been in vain."
se/bw (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)