Eric Holder: We're prepared to dismantle Ferguson police force if necessary

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson was still on the job Friday, two days after a government report blasted his beleaguered department for years of racial profiling, and the mayor refused to speculate about the chief’s future.

Meanwhile, three Ferguson employees implicated in racist emails exposed by that report are now gone from their jobs, the mayor said. One was identified as a city court clerk.

Calls for Jackson’s removal were renewed again this week after the Justice Department cleared Darren Wilson, the white former Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown, of federal civil rights charges in the death of the 18-year-old, who was black and unarmed.

A second report released simultaneously found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the St. Louis suburb that has come to represent the tension between minorities and American police nationwide.

Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Friday that the federal government will “use all the power that we have to change the situation” in Ferguson, including possibly dismantling the police force.

“If that’s what’s necessary, we’re prepared to do that,” Holder said while accompanying President Barack Obama on a trip to South Carolina.

Asked about Jackson in an interview with The Associated Press, Mayor James Knowles III said only, “He’s still the chief.”

Jackson did not respond to interview requests on Friday but has repeatedly said he would not step down.

Ferguson city leaders will meet with Justice Department officials in about two weeks and provide a plan for improving the police force and the municipal court system, Knowles said.

The report uncovered racist emails from several city employees, including some that belittled black residents or President Barack Obama. Knowles said three employees responsible for the emails ended their employment with the city on Thursday.

The Justice Department report on the police department found that black drivers were more than twice as likely as others to be searched during routine traffic stops. Minority residents bear the burden of fines and court costs expected to generate $3 million this fiscal year. Black residents were more likely to face excessive force from police, often during unwarranted stops.

Some have called on the city to dissolve the 54-officer police force and allow either St. Louis County or a neighboring municipality to take over patrols. Knowles said there is “zero” percent chance of that happening.


Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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