[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] said Wednesday that it would explore legal action [press release] to keep the Ferguson City Council [official site] from making changes to an agreement to reform its police department and municipal operations. The announcement came after the the city council in Ferguson, Missouri, voted [press release] Tuesday to unilaterally amend the agreement reached in January after a DOJ investigation found the Ferguson Police Department's actions were rooted in discriminatory policies [statement]. After community input, the council amended the agreement, mandating that the DOJ accept the changes or invalidate the agreement. The city council voted to include seven amendments, including preventing a mandate on salaries, goals for women and minorities for some jobs, local hiring preference, and capping the cost of the agreement. In response to the late night vote, the DOJ stated:
The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement. Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers. Both parties engaged in thoughtful negotiations over many months to create an agreement with cost-effective remedies that would ensure Ferguson brings policing and court practices in line with the Constitution. The agreement already negotiated by the department and the city will provide Ferguson residents a police department and municipal court that fully respects civil rights and operates free from racial discrimination.The city has yet to respond.
Ferguson gained international attention after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown [JURIST report] by a police officer. The official response to the shooting set off massive protests and social unrest that cost millions of dollars. A Ferguson reform panel in September released [JURIST report] a report calling for the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts. The DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) [official website] has found [JURIST report] that the response by the Ferguson police department escalated riots after Michael Brown's death. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] on human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October 2014.