Days after the Justice Department issued a scathing review of police practices in Ferguson, Missouri, President Obama on Friday said the embattled city “will now have to make a decision” to either end discriminatory practices or face a federal lawsuit.
Speaking at a town-hall meeting at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, the president said the Justice Department findings aren’t a broad indictment of police procedure across the country but rather proof that bad actors exist in law enforcement and that institutionalized bias is not merely a fantasy.
In the Justice Department report, Attorney General Eric Holder described the situation in Ferguson as a “highly toxic” environment in which African-Americans were singled out and issued heavier fines and faced excessive use of force by police.
In a separate decision, the Justice Department did not bring federal charges against former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in connection with the death of teenager Michael Brown last year.
Moving forward, Mr. Obama said the city must clean up its act or face legal action by the federal government.
“It was an oppressive and abusive situation,” the president said of police practices in Ferguson. “The city of Ferguson will now have to make a decision. Are they now going to enter into some sort of agreement with the Justice Department to fix what is clearly a broken and racially broken system? Or, if they don’t, the Justice Department has the capacity to sue the city for violations of the rights of the people of Ferguson.”