Last August, race and politics came to the forefront following the murder of teen Michael Brown at the hands of former police officer Darren Wilson. A national debate was sparked after a Grand Jury decided not to charge Wilson, exposing simmering tensions between authorities and minorities who have long levied complaints of police brutality. Yet even before Brown’s death there had been grumblings of racial profiling within the St. Louis suburb, with many accusing the largely white police force of employing racial profiling against the predominately Black population.
Largely criticized for their mishandling of Brown’s death, the U.S. Justice Department would go on to launch their own investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department including; its use of force, the amount of traffic stops conducted and potential discriminatory policies. This included a look into why Black drivers were twice as likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts, as well as why they make up 63% of the population yet accounted for 86% of all traffic stops in 2013 alone.
With the formal report out later this week, officials already familiar with the results reveal Ferguson authorities disproportionately arrested and ticketed African American residents in order to provide additional funds to the city budget, an offense that will lead to a Civil Rights suit if they cannot come to a settlement with the Justice Department.
While these findings will undoubtedly result in sweeping changes within the Ferguson Police Department, it will be interesting to see whether the same will occur on a national level. Last week the Justice Department announced that it would seek no further charges against George Zimmerman, who’s been in the news for a string of arrests following his initial acquittal for the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was acquitted by a Grand Jury after claiming that he killed the unarmed teen in self-defense as Martin was walking home.
In addition to releasing their findings, it will be interesting to see how they will be used going forward. As reports of discrimination and excessive force have grown rampant in recent years.