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DOJ, Ferguson conclude police reform settlement

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] and the city of Ferguson, Missouri, filed a settlement agreement [text, PDF] on Thursday to conclude a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] brought by the federal government last month. The settlement proposes an overhaul of the Ferguson police force and municipal court system. In a statement [press release], Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, "[t]he filing of this agreement marks the beginning of a process that the citizens of Ferguson have long awaited—the process of ensuring that they receive the rights and protections guaranteed to every American under the law." City officials originally rejected the agreement, but were ultimately persuaded by a letter from the leader of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta. Gupta assured city officials that the financial burden of the reform implementation was initially overstated.

Lynch first announced the lawsuit [JURIST report] alleging unjust policing in February. It was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri [official website]. Included in the lawsuit are allegations that the police department and municipal court interfere with citizens' First Amendment right to free expression, prosecute and resolve municipal charges in a manner which violates due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and engage in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of both the Fourteenth Amendment and federal law. Ferguson gained international attention after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent trial [JURIST report]. The response to the shooting set off massive protests and social unrest that cost millions of dollars.

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