U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday he fully stands behind the Justice Department's decision not to bring civil rights charges against a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager during a confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
He also said he backs the department's findings that the town's white police force has been biased against African Americans.
On Friday, Obama told students at Benedict College — a majority black college in Columbia, South Carolina — that this week's Justice Department's report on Ferguson was very clear.
"What we saw was that the Ferguson police department, in conjunction with the municipality, saw traffic stops, arrests, tickets as a revenue generator as opposed to serving the community," he said. "And that it was systematically biased against African Americans in that city who were stopped, harassed, mistreated, abused, called names, fined."
The president said Ferguson will now have to decide to fix what is broken or face a possible lawsuit by the Justice Department.
Earlier Friday, Obama told radio talkshow host Joe Madison that racial bias in Ferguson was not isolated.
"There are circumstances in which trust between communities and law enforcement have broken down, and individuals or entire departments may not have the training or accountability to make sure that they're protecting and serving all people and not just some," the president said.
Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, erupted in violence last August when white officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in a confrontation after the teen was suspected of shoplifting.
Meanwhile, President Obama will lead a march Saturday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama — one of the most violent incidents of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The president told Joe Madison that there is still much to be accomplished on the civil rights front. He said he believes gay rights and lifting the threat of deportation against some illegal immigrants are civil rights issues.
He also said many members of the black community disenfranchise themselves by not voting in elections — something he says does not live up to the legacy of Selma.
On March 7, 1965, millions of television viewers watched as police beat hundreds of civil rights marchers as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, Alabama — the first leg of a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
A week after the incident, President Lyndon Johnson asked a joint session of Congress to pass a voting rights law.