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DoJ finds Ferguson police targeted African-Americans in traffic stops, NYT reports

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WASHINGTON D.C. (KTVI) - The Ferguson Police Department unfairly targeted African-Americans in traffic stops, fomenting years of animosity between the citizenry and law enforcement, culminating in the August 2014 shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old by a police officer, according to a story appearing in the New York Times regarding a forthcoming report from the U.S. Justice Department.

DoJ officials who’ve been briefed on the report tell the Times that the report criticizes Ferguson city leaders for relying on ticket fines to balance the city budget. Those fines are Ferguson’s second-largest source of revenue, just behind sales tax, thus creating an incentive for police to unfairly target blacks.

In separate data published by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, African-Americans, who make up 63 percent of the Ferguson population, accounted for 86 percent of all traffic stops in the city. Once stopped, black drivers were 12 times as likely as whites to be searched. And during those searches, contraband was discovered on34 percent of white drivers, compared to 21.7 percent of black drivers.

According to the Times story, the DoJ report provides context for the shooting death of Michael Brown, as well as the “mounting sense of frustration and anger in a predominantly black city where the police department and local government are mostly white.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected to leave the post before the summer, announced the DoJ investigation in September 2014.

This report, which could be released as early as this week, will likely result in significant changes within the Ferguson Police Department as city leaders negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department. Federal authorities could threaten the city with a civil rights lawsuit otherwise. The DoJ would not even have to prove the Ferguson PD's ticketing policies were necessarily racially motivated, but rather had a negative impact on African-Americans and that the result was unavoidable.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice previously ruled that Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, will be cleared of any civil rights charges.

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