The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Ferguson, Missouri have reached an agreement to overhaul the city’s police department, in a push to end its alleged practices of unconstitutional policing.
The parties filed the 133-page agreement Thursday, resolving a lawsuit opened by the DOJ in February that alleged Ferguson’s police department frequently used excessive force and discriminated against African Americans in part to generate city revenue.
Under the agreement, the city’s law enforcement will receive bias-awareness education and officers will be retrained to de-escalate situations rather than use force.
The changes also include reforming the municipal court system and establishing a civilian review board to oversee complaints made against the police department. An independent monitor will be appointed by the DOJ to oversee the implementation of the agreement and gauge its effectiveness.
The agreement is a step toward ensuring all Ferguson citizens are treated equally under the law, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement announcing the agreement.
“The American people must be able to trust that their courts and law enforcement will uphold, protect, and defend their constitutional rights,” she said.
Ferguson’s city council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve the agreement, avoiding what could have spun into an expensive legal battle with the federal government. The city had previously rejected the accord, citing a cost of $3.7 million in the first year that some councilors worried could bankrupt Ferguson.
At the meeting, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said that money was still a major factor in Ferguson’s future, noting that an economic sales tax and property tax increase on an upcoming April ballot were crucial.
“Without passing this tax increase, it will be nearly impossible to meet the terms of that decree,” Knowles said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The DOJ filed its lawsuit in February — the day after Ferguson rejected its recommendations and 18 months after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager whose fatal shooting sparked demonstrations and drew national attention to police departments’ use of excessive force and civil rights violations.
Michael Brown Sr. attended Tuesday’s council meeting in Ferguson and thanked Mayor James Knowles III after the vote.
“It’s beautiful,” Brown told the New York Times. “It’s a good feeling. It let me know that, at the end of the day, you still have to make choices, and hopefully they’re the good choices.”
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