Black drivers in Ferguson, Mo., are pulled over much more for traffic stops than white drivers—and this imbalance is the crux of a forthcoming and damning Justice Department report, the New York Times reports. The nearly finished findings, according to law enforcement officials who say they've been briefed on it, are expected to show how systematic discriminatory actions helped stoke tensions in the period before Michael Brown's shooting death last summer by officer Darren Wilson. The report is also said to suggest that ticket fines are used to keep the city's budget in line, the Times notes. If those issued a ticket can't pay it, they can keep going to jail for the unpaid fees, which has proven lucrative for the city: "Fines and public safety" are Ferguson's second-largest revenue source (sales tax is the first), per the Times.
Although blacks in Ferguson only make up 63% of the population, they were involved in 86% of the city's 2013 traffic stops, per Missouri AG info cited by the Times. And the search rate for blacks after a stop was twice that of whites during that time period, though whites were significantly more likely to have "contraband." Mayor James Knowles III has already taken umbrage with the alleged findings and for recent statements by AG Eric Holder, who said in October that "wholesale change" was needed in the Ferguson PD. "How come they haven't told us there is something that needs to be changed as they found it?" Knowles told the Times last week. "Why have they allowed whatever they think is happening to continue to happen for six months if that's the case?" Also said to be included in the report: a racist joke believed to have been emailed among city officials, law enforcement officials tell the Times.