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DOJ report renews outrage in Ferguson

FILE: Thousands of demonstrators peacefully march down a street with members of the St. Louis County Police and Missouri Highway Patrol Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The U.S. Justice Department report on Tuesday that found Ferguson, Mo., police use racially discriminatory tactics stoked a new round of outrage among the community leaders most active in the ongoing protests there.

Elected officials, protest organizers and community leaders renewed calls for Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson to resign, with some saying that that the department should be disbanded. They also said the DOJ probe should have gone further by investigating other municipal police forces.

[Justice Dept. review finds pattern of racial bias among Ferguson police]

Above all, they said, the report serves as vindication. Their protest chants following the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown declared that Ferguson police were racially discriminatory. Now, they noted, DOJ has said they were right.

“I live in Ferguson so I knew this. We always knew what was going on,” said Tony Rice, one of the young leaders who became a key coordinator for the protests outside the Ferguson police department. “The way the police treat us, that’s nothing new to us.”

The federal review concluded, among other things, that while African Americans make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93 percent of all arrests between 2012 and 2014.

[The breaking point for Ferguson]

“I would speculate that the same pattern and practices of Ferguson exist in every other department in St. Louis County,” said Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis NAACP, which has filed racial discrimination complaints against county police to the DOJ in the past and still awaits a response.

Now, Pruitt and others said, Jackson must go and the department should be disbanded.

“It’s time for the Ferguson police department to disappear,” he said.

DOJ concluded that African Americans accounted for 85 percent of all people stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90 percent of all citations issued. The report also notes several racist jokes sent by city and police officials via e-mail. In 13 of 14 police canine-bite incidents for which racial information was available, it says, the person bitten was African American.

The Justice Department concludes that the Ferguson, Mo., police department routinely engages in racially biased practices. (Video: Reuters)

“Ray Charles could see the institutional racism that’s going on here in Ferguson,” said state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Chappelle-Nadal said she is eager to read the full report, and is outraged by details reported by the Washington Post and other media outlets. Specifically, she is incensed by statistics showing black people being bitten by police dogs while in custody.

“I’m disturbed by what I’m reading,” she said. “We’re allowing police dogs to bite people? What is this, 1955?”

An outspoken critic of Ferguson’s police chief and major, she said both should resign.

“They need to get rid of the police chief, that’s the first thing they should do,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “They should have disbanded this police department in August.”

Patricia Bynes, Ferguson’s Democratic committeewoman, said that she is not confident that Ferguson city and police officials will cooperate with the DOJ, noting that the federal officials may have to sue the city.

“You’re letting dogs attack people. Let’s just talk about the inhumanity of this entire situation,” Bynes said. “So no wonder you could let a young man’s body lie out in the street for four and a half hours.”

“This is not news to anybody who lives in this region,” Bynes said. “But if we allow this to be just another day in St. Louis County, it’s going to be really sad.”

In the meantime, Bynes said that the Ferguson mayor, police chief and city manager should all resign.

“Everybody needs to take a hard look at themselves,” Bynes said. “We need a lot more people to get upset, a lot more people to get courageous.”

The Rev. Derek Robinson, who has been active in the protests, vowed that the DOJ report will cause protests to intensify in Ferguson. And other protest leaders praised the DOJ report, but noted that change is a long process.

“This is a small victory,” said Cat Daniels, known as “Mama Cat” among protesters, for whom she often cooks and provides community meals. “It validates what we’ve been screaming for all of these months. We’ve got a long way to go, but this is something.”