Justice Racism

Report: DOJ May Sue the Ferguson PD for Discrimination

The Department of Justice is preparing to reveal the results of their investigation of the Ferguson Police Department and, according to sources who spoke to CNN, the Justice Department may threaten the local police with a lawsuit if they do not voluntarily enact reforms.

If they don't agree to review and revise those tactics, sources say, the Justice Department would sue to force changes in the department. [...]

Among the issues expected to be part of the Justice Department's lawsuit are allegations made in a recent lawsuit filed by a group of low-income people who claimed officers in Ferguson and nearby Jennings targeted minorities with minor traffic infractions and then jailed them when they couldn't pay fines.

A major problem that came to light after protests erupted in Ferguson was the city's reliance on fees and fines to continue funding operations.

Critics have accused the city of running de facto debtors prisons where people guilty of non-violent crimes are held for long periods of time because they cannot pay a fee or fine.

In 2013, Ferguson collected $2.6 million in court fines and fees, mainly on traffic violations and other low-level municipal offenses. That was the city's second-largest source of income, or about 21 percent of its total budget.

The lawsuit challenges the practice of jailing people when they can't afford to pay those fines. When tickets go unpaid, people are summoned to court and usually offered a new payment plan. If they fail to show up or make the new payments, the city issues an arrest warrant.

The Justice Department's findings may be unveiled next week.

(photo via NYTimes)