The Ferguson, Missouri, city council took a step forward Tuesday to accept a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to reform the city's police after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Last month, the DOJ announced civil rights action against the city over the teen’s death that sparked racial tensions in the U.S.
The council has reportedly set a March 15 meeting on the deal with the Justice Department after it received assurances from the DOJ last week that it will work with Ferguson to ensure that the reforms in police and court systems would be implemented without crippling the city’s finances. According to Reuters, officers indicated that the DOJ’s terms of the agreement will likely be accepted.
Ferguson came under immense pressure after Brown, 18, was shot to death on Aug. 9, 2014, by white officer Darren Wilson, giving rise to concerns over the use of excessive police force. A St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department both cleared Wilson of any wrongdoings in Brown’s death.
Last year, the Justice Department found that the criminal justice system in Ferguson routinely violated the constitutional rights of blacks, and created a "toxic environment" in the suburb, which has an African-American population of more than 67 percent. Within days of the report's release, Ferguson's police chief, city manager and municipal judge resigned from their positions.
Last month, the council for the St. Louis County agreed with the basic proposals, including a requirement for the police department to give officers bias-awareness training and enforcement of an accountability system that would require outside monitors at the city’s expense. Under the settlement, the city would have to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failing to pay fines, the report added.
However, the council asked for several other reforms as well, including no raise in police salaries. It also said that fire departments' salaries be raised, which could cost the city about $1 million annually, the Associated Press reported.
Vanita Gupta, the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, said last month that the Ferguson City Council created an “unnecessary delay” by voting to amend its consent decree agreement that would reform the police department.