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Years After Brown Death, Some MO Police Continue Unlawful Practices

The shooting death of teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer prompted the U.S. Justice Department's most significant investigation of policing practices since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. After Brown's killing in 2014, DOJ spent 100 days conducting the on-site investigation, which included reviewing 35,000 pages of police records, interviewing the city’s leadership and at least half its officers, and participating in ride-alongs with cops. The resulting report included one of the most unambiguous formal findings of institutional racism and predatory policing in the DOJ’s history of investigating police departments for systemic violations, Reuters reports. The Ferguson Police Department was more focused on a racially discriminatory strategy to generate revenue – criminalizing and squeezing money for public services out of its non-white residents – than public safety, the DOJ said.

Officials entered into a consent decree in 2016, agreeing to reform what the DOJ described as a pattern of conduct that "violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments.” Seven years later, local officials around Missouri are apparently continuing some of the same problematic and unlawful practices identified in Ferguson. A federal appeals court delivered a partial win to legal advocacy groups on Nov. 1 in a class action challenging the St. Louis County Police Department’s so-called “wanteds” system, which allows police to make arrests without a warrant or probable cause. The ruling shows some departments in the region are maintaining legally dubious practices, even after the revelations in Ferguson became a flashpoint in a global civil rights movement. Officials seem to be resisting making changes because such practices are profitable and convenient.


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