The US Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson Missouri on Feb. 10 in order to enforce police reform.
The lawsuit comes after the city voted to amend some of the aspects of a policing agreement it had reached with the federal government due concerns over costs.
“Authorities had no choice to file the lawsuit after the Ferguson City Council voted to change the terms of a deal negotiators had been hashing out for months,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “The council knowingly voted against an agreement approved by the city’s own negotiators.”
The city was well aware that by deciding not to accept it, they were choosing litigation she said.
Council members say they have approved the deal but only if the Justice Department amends the agreement so that it
- contains no mandate for the payment of additional salary to police or other city employees.
- contains no mandate for staffing at the city’s jail
- extends the deadlines set forth
- excludes the other agencies that take over services currently provided by the city
- includes a preference for local contractors and consultants
- includes a preference for minority and women participation in consulting, oversight and third party services
- caps monitoring fees at $1 million over the first five years and no more than $250,000 in any single year.
City officials say that council’s vote wasn’t a rejection of a deal with the Justice Department but it was rather a push to return to the table and change some of the terms due to concerns over cost.
It is estimated that the decree would cost $2.2 million to $3.7 million to implement in first year, costing $1.8 to $3 million in each of the second and third years.
To help reduce the deficit and pay for the changes required Ferguson is asking voters in April to approve an increase in property and sales tax.
Ferguson is also seeking federal grants, but even if an increase is implemented and grants are approved non-police job cuts may be necessary.
Ferguson’s deficit largely stems from:
- overtime for police during protests
- lost sales tax revenue from businesses damages in fires
- looting and legal expenses
The decree requires that all patrol supervisors and jail workers be outfitted with body worn camera and microphones within 180 days of the agreement taking effect.
The body cams are meant to promote accountability and are to be activated for all traffic stops, arrests, searches and encounters with people believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis. Other highlights include:
- training on bias-free policing
- training on proper-stops searches and arrests as well as appropriate use of force
- development of a recruitment plan to add diversity to police force
Civil Rights advocates have warned that litigation with the Justice Department may cost more than implementing the agreement.
A timeline of the Unrest in Ferguson