Ferguson, Missouri, has tentatively agreed to a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after federal officials found evidence of rampant racial bias by the city's police force, the St. Louis Dispatch reported Wednesday. The city asked residents to review the proposal, posted to its website, and to provide city leaders with their thoughts.
Following an investigation spurred by protests over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in 2014, the Justice Department denounced the city’s police and municipal court for constitutional violations and predatory policing. For months, a committee has been privately negotiating with the department on a package of reforms.
Breaking: City of Ferguson and Department of Justice have reached a proposed settlement. https://t.co/6mBBPtFBEQ
— Jeremy Kohler (@jeremykohler) January 27, 2016
While people reportedly have been frustrated by a lack of information regarding the reforms, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said the city began implementing reforms since Brown’s death, and many people don’t understand that. The city has maintained that residents would have to review any agreement before it’s approved.
“If we get to an agreement with the DOJ, the majority of the things that we agree to are not going be a surprise to anybody,” Knowles said last year, the St. Louis Dispatch reported. “People act like: ‘Oh, my God, what’s going to be in it?’ ... A lot of this is the things that we have been doing. … We still want people to see what the final product would be before we sign anything."
The consent decree must now be approved by the Ferguson City Council, which is waiting for public comment but reportedly expects to vote on the agreement by Feb. 9.
The 127-page draft of the consent decree that was published Wednesday created guidelines for training police officers on issues like when they should use force and how they can “reorient Ferguson’s use-of-force policies toward de-escalation and avoiding force.” The proposed agreement also requires body-worn cameras and an overhaul of the municipal court system, as well as the selection and appointment of an independent monitor.
"We remain hopeful that the City Council will approve the Agreement on that date, and that we will not have to resort to contested litigation, given that this would delay implementation of much needed police and court reform, and divert substantial resources away from the reform effort," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta told the council in a letter, National Public Radio reported.