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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ferguson Cuts a Deal|With Justice Department

FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - Ferguson, Mo., has a tentative agreement with the Department of Justice to address issues described in a scathing report after the Michael Brown protests.

The agreement includes an overhaul of the Ferguson Police Department.

Under the 131-page Consent Decree , police will wear body cameras at all times, may not stop people simply to check for outstanding warrants, and must state specific reasons for suspicion and probable cause in their reports.

Police and municipal court staff will undergo training to combat implicit racial bias while performing their duties.

Other highlights include the creation of a community engagement strategy between police and all segments of the Ferguson community, establishment of long-term programs to promote positive police-youth interactions and emphasis on de-escalation and avoidance of using force.

Ferguson will be responsible for the cost of a monitor to ensure the reforms are put into place, which could cost the cash-strapped city $350,000 in the first year. The total cost of the agreement is unknown. Ferguson already faces millions of dollars in budget shortfalls.

The agreement allows Ferguson to maintain control of its Police Department and Municipal Court.

The city said in a statement that the Consent Decree came after seven months of "hard fought and good faith" negotiations with the Department of Justice.

"The city representatives worked very hard to reach an agreement with the Department of Justice and this proposed agreement represents the best agreement that the City's representatives were able to obtain for the citizens of Ferguson," the city said. "This agreement, if approved, avoids the time and cost of litigation and allows the city to continue its focus to ensure constitutional policing and court practices, and thus provides these benefits to the citizens of Ferguson."

In its March 2015 report, the Department of Justice in March described a litany of constitutional violations routinely committed by the Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court. It said Ferguson police disproportionately targeted black citizens and the city uses its Municipal Court as a revenue generator.

The report was in response to the often violent protests following the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

Local politicians who have criticized Ferguson's practices were pleased with the agreement.

"It addresses all of the concerns of the Ferguson community, the people that were victimized by the structure of government in Ferguson, by the Police Department," Congressman William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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