By St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A few numbers indicate a civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department is long overdue. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice will begin such an inquiry. This is an important and positive step forward, but we suspect when he gets into the numbers, and examines the reality of North St. Louis County, Ferguson will play but a small role in a larger investigation.
First, those numbers:
• As we noted Aug. 10, the day after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, blacks in Ferguson were 37 percent more likely to be pulled over in 2013 than whites, as a percentage of their respective populations. Those black drivers who were pulled over were twice as likely to be searched for contraband, such as drugs, than white drivers, even though police found contraband, percentage-wise, more often in the cars of white drivers.
• In a city that is two-thirds black, only three of its 53 police officers are black.
• And this, from a recent report from Arch City Defenders: “Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400. In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.”
None of these things, on their own, are proof positive of institutional racism or civil rights violations. But together, they help paint a picture that explains why tens of thousands of African-Americans in the St. Louis region have taken to the streets in anger, not just over the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer, but over years of being subject to different rules when dealing with the justice system partly, if not mostly, because of the color of their skin.
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