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Many of the police departments in St. Louis County, Missouri — where the death of Michael Brown sparked weeks of unrest — have adopted making money as a "grossly inappropriate" mission and abandoned community-oriented policing, a new study has concluded.
"It is a dysfunctional and dangerous situation that cannot be sustained," the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum wrote in the highly critical report issued Monday.
“We have never before encountered what we saw in parts of St. Louis County,” Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the forum, said in a statement.
The group was retained by a non-profit called Better Together in the wake of the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, an unarmed teen, in Ferguson.
It found the fragmented nature of policing — there are 58 separate departments, some covering territory that's less than one square mile — is ineffective and has led to a patchwork of standards and policies.
Just as disturbing, the report found, is that priorities are often not driven by public safety needs of local residents.
"Police departments are being pushed into the role of revenue generators for their cities and towns. They are being diverted away from their traditional roles of community guardians and protectors," it said.
"This situation is driving a wedge between police and citizens in far too many communities. It is undermining the legitimacy of the police in the eyes of residents, community leaders, and business owners—not just in the communities where policing is in crisis, but in the region as a whole, whose reputation continues to suffer."
The report's recommendations include a regional training center; consistent standards for hiring, training and use of force; consolidate clusters of police departments into single forces.
The study's findings are in line with the Department of Justice report that identified patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson police department, with officers using force, traffic stops and petty, money-making citations disproportionately against blacks. NBC News also reported on ticket blitzes in St. Louis' predominately black suburbs.