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DOJ Expected to Clear Darren Wilson But Charge Ferguson Police With Racial Bias

The Department of Justice has reportedly concluded two investigations that were launched following the killing of Michael Brown last August.

by Alice Speri
Mar 3 2015, 11:45pm

Photo by Jeff Roberson/AP

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reportedly concluded two investigations that were launched following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last August.

The DOJ is expected to clear Wilson of any civil rights violations but accuse the Ferguson police of violating the constitutional rights of the city's black residents through racial bias and excessive force, according to federal law enforcement officials who spoke with the New York TimesWashington Post, and Associated Press ahead of the report's expected release Wednesday.

Related: Eric Holder calls for moratorium on death penalty and conclusions in Ferguson investigations.

The report will likely confirm what Ferguson's black residents had repeatedly said in the aftermath of Brown's killing: They were routinely harassed and discriminated against by police, and subjected to constant, unjustified traffic stops. 

The DOJ is also expected to reveal new details about racist remarks made by Ferguson officials over email. In a November 2008 email, for instance, an unnamed city official reportedly wrote that Obama could not be president for long, asking colleagues, "What black man holds a steady job for four years?"

According to reports, the DOJ will allege that Ferguson police used traffic stops to raise money, a claim that is already the subject of a class-action lawsuit against the city. The DOJ's report is also expected to state that Ferguson police used force excessively and disproportionately against blacks, and that blacks were held in the city's jail for longer periods than other citizens. Ferguson's black residents were "overwhelmingly" charged with "petty offenses," the DOJ reportedly found.

The Ferguson police department — and others in St. Louis County — came under fire following last summer's protests for its lack of diversity. While 70 percent of Ferguson's citizens are black, the town counted only three black officers on a force of 53. Blacks made up 93 percent of all arrests in the city between 2012 and 2014.

The city of Ferguson issued a statement Tuesday saying the mayor, police chief, city manager, and city attorney met with the DOJ to discuss the outcome of the investigation. The statement said the city is "currently reviewing the report and its findings," and will hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon after the report is made public.

The city will now have to either reach a settlement with the DOJ — which might include retraining officers and the supervision of an independent monitor — or it might face a lawsuit for its unconstitutional behavior.

Under Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected to leave office in the coming weeks, the DOJ has launched more than 20 investigations into police departments across the country, reaching agreements aimed at changing the practices of several, including in Albuquerque, New Orleans, and Seattle. In some cities, such as Cleveland, DOJ investigations have led to the appointment of independent monitors to oversee police.

Related: Ferguson officials aren't telling you what happened to Mike Brown.

Some Ferguson protesters said on Twitter that the DOJ's findings hardly surprised them.

"This report shows that there are many more Darren Wilson's in the Ferguson Police Department," Deray McKesson, an organizer and a regular presence on Ferguson's streets, wrote. "He is the rule and not the exception."

McKesson added that, "The system and structures of policing in Ferguson empowered and protected Darren Wilson."

The Brown family's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment from VICE News.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi