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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Ferguson, Mo., Approves DOJ Settlement

FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - Amid cheers from the crowd, the Ferguson City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to accept a settlement with the Justice Department.

The 131-page decree provides a comprehensive overhaul of the city's police department and other policies. The approval avoids costly and lengthy litigation against the DOJ.

The Department of Justice investigated the city after Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death on Aug. 9, 2014. The ensuing riots and more fatal shooting of black men by white police officers thrust long-simmering problems of racism and excessive force by police into national and world news.

One year ago, the Department of Justice released a scathing report accusing Ferguson police of targeting blacks and the city of using its municipal court as a revenue generator.

After months of negotiations, Ferguson and the federal government reached a tentative settlement, but in February the City Council returned the settlement to the Department of Justice with several stipulations and revisions.

The Department of Justice responded a day later by suing the city in St. Louis Federal Court.

The change of heart came after the DOJ in a letter clarified that a provision in the decree does not require the city to give police officers a raise of a particular percentage.

"We understand the importance of today's vote," Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said in a statement. "Our number one goal is to not only move the city but the entire region forward. We have heard the concerns of the community and we're looking forward to working with our citizens."

The DOJ is expected to drop its lawsuit with the settlement's approval.

"Tonight, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, took an important step towards guaranteeing all of its citizens the protections of our Constitution," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "We are pleased that they have approved the consent decree, a document designed to provide the framework needed to institute constitutional policing in Ferguson, and look forward to filing it in court in the coming days and beginning to work with them towards implementation."

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