Despite a damning Justice Department report that found African-Americans made up 93 percent of arrests even though they only represent 67 percent of the Ferguson, Mo. population, the mayor is claiming the city does not have a race problem.
In an interview Friday, Mayor James Knowles III rejected the scathing 102-page report, claiming police department practices are not racially biased, Think Progress reports.
“What they’ve shown is that it has happened. Now, how often has that happened? I don’t know. Their assertion is it happens regularly. Based on what? I’m not sure yet,” Knowles said. “Do they have a statistic that tells me that they’ve examined every arrest that we’ve made for the past four years and that half, or all, or 10 percent, or 5 percent are unconstitutional or without cause? They do not have that. They have not examined at that level that I know of at this point.”
He also said there is “no proof” of gross civil rights violations, although the report thoroughly details a number of racist incidents along with statistics.
In many cases, officers approached African-Americans without probable cause. Black people made up 85 percent of traffic stops and received 90 percent of tickets. And officers often arrested and held residents at the expense of individuals in order to increase revenue for the city.
Now, in response to creating what many deem “debtors’ prisons,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) will introduce a bill that will make the racially biased police practice a federal civil rights violation, according to the Washington Post.
The Fair Justice Act would make it a civil rights violation punishable by up to five years in prison for a police officer, chief or department to enforce criminal or traffic laws for the purpose of raising revenue.
“The time has come to end the practice of using law enforcement as a cash register, a practice that has impacted too many Americans and has disproportionately affected minority and low-income communities,” Cleaver said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “No American should have to face arbitrary police enforcement whose sole purpose is to raise revenue for a town, city, or state.”
As the Post points out, the Democratic bill could face some trouble in the Republican-controlled House.
In the meantime, the city of Ferguson will likely enter an agreement with the Justice Department, or risk being sued in a federal lawsuit.