FERGUSON (KMOV) – Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is under scrutiny following the release of a Department of Justice report that says the city has fundamentally compromised the role of its municipal court.
Jackson, who has been chief for five years, was looking for ways to use police to increase the number of tickets so the city could make more money, along with other city officials, according to the DOJ report.
The DOJ says Ferguson used its court to force people to pay fees and fines that brought millions of dollars into city government. The court operated as part of the police department and was supervised by Jackson. Under Jackson, there was a dramatic increase in traffic tickets that more than doubled revenue through municipal court.
The DOJ report also found that under Jackson's leadership, the Ferguson Police Department engaged in unnecessarily aggressive and at times unlawful policing. There are repeated examples of “substantial evidence of racial bias” among police and court staff. That evidence included racist emails circulated by police supervisors and court staffers.
Following the deadly shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, Jackson quickly became a target. At first, the scrutiny focused on the shooting, but questions also arose about the way Ferguson enforced the law in general, and the disproportionately higher percentage of blacks who were stopped, searched and arrested. The report also found that aggressive policing resulted from pressure by city and police leadership, who urged officers to write more tickets. Jackson even changed schedules so it would be easier to accomplish that. Attorney General Eric Holder says some officers would compete to see who could write the most tickets during a single traffic stop.
The DOJ said when Jackson became chief five years ago, he initiated new department policies, including use-of-force reporting and review. According to the report, those policies were routinely ignored and the department rarely corrected officer misconduct.
There is also evidence that the police department tolerates sexual harassment by male officers because the department responded poorly to complaints made by female officers.
As part of the report, the DOJ made extensive recommendations, including lower bonds in court and better systems of tracking and accountability for the actions of police officers.
Last fall, Jackson received pressure to resign from some political leaders outside of Ferguson. Jackson was asked by News 4 if he planned to resign, but he has not responded.