By Angela Wills
Michael Brown’s hometown of Ferguson is being sued by the Justice Department after the city has refused to accept a deal that would reform its mainly white police department.
A civil rights lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, in an attempt to bring a halt to what many describe as patterns of constitutional violations by the police department and municipal court of the city.
The decision was made a day after Ferguson rejected a negotiated deal that would have started the process of rebuilding the St. Louis suburb’s police department.
The original deal was coordinated more than 11 months after the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released a revealing report last March that cited common patterns of constitutional abuses that take place in the city. These abuses included instances where the primarily white police force targeted black residents who many law enforcement officers saw “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”
The report portrayed an unethical local government, in which the municipal court and the police department “worked in concert to maximize revenue at every state of the enforcement process” for quite a few years.
The terms of the negotiated deal would have required quite a few forward changes, including forcing police to practice de-escalation tactics without using force, mandating extensive training for officers and making city officials engage with minority groups that have had negative experience with the police department.
During a Ferguson City Council meeting on Tuesday night, all six of the council members voted to accept the deal, citing that it would only be accepted under “certain conditions”, which meant they were requesting changes. They wanted different deadlines and fees than those made plain in the original deal. There was also a request for the removal of a key line that would have mandated more pay for police officers in the city, which according to officials, the city simply can’t afford. The council members also requested the removal of a provision that would have voided the deal in its entirety if the city decided to contract with another law enforcement agency for policing services.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the vote set forth by the Ferguson City Council “leaves us no further choice” but to sue.
According to Ferguson officials, they had hoped to negotiate the deal further with the DOJ, but knew that the possibility of a lawsuit did exist.