CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

DOJ Releases Reports on Ferguson PD, Michael Brown Shooting

The Department of Justice issued two reports Wednesday: one finding that police in Ferguson, Missouri, engaged in a pattern of conduct that routinely violated residents' civil rights, and another detailing the fatal police shooting of Ferguson resident Michael Brown.

Citing the results of the Michael Brown investigation, the DOJ declined to file federal civil rights charges against former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown after an altercation in August.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the investigations revealed "a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents."

The Cops and the Courts

The DOJ's investigation wasn't limited to the Ferguson PD; it also found the city's municipal courts continually committed constitutional violations. According to the DOJ, systematic racial profiling combined with a priority on revenue production led to illegal and unconstitutional behavior on the part of law enforcement and court officials.

As the document entitled "Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department" demonstrates, racial bias and stereotyping precipitated illegal stops and arrests, the use of unreasonable force, and unequal treatment in criminal fines and penalties. Specifically,

Ferguson's law enforcement practices overwhelmingly impact African Americans. Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson's population.

As a result of the investigation, the DOJ made 26 specific recommendations to correct unconstitutional behavior in Ferguson, including improving training and oversight, changing practices to reduce racial bias, and basing police and court practices on public safety rather than revenue.

The Homicide of Michael Brown

The DOJ also investigated the shooting death of Michael Brown. That investigation found insufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that ex-Officer Darren Wilson's actions violated federal civil rights laws. According to the DOJ's press release, the evidence did not establish "that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so."

The DOJ's Michael Brown shooting report includes witness interviews, autopsy results, and physical evidence gathered in the shooting investigation.

You can read both reports below.

Department of Justice Report on Ferguson Police Department by FindLaw

Department of Justice Report on Shooting of Michael Brown by FindLaw