DOJ Sues Ferguson After City Council Rejects Criminal Justice Reform Recommendations

The lawsuit comes almost one year after the Department of Justice found that Ferguson police officers regularly violated Black residents’ rights

The Department of Justice is taking legal action after the Ferguson city council rejected the department’s recommendations aimed at reforming unconstitutional policing practices.

At a news conference earlier this afternoon, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that Ferguson has made insufficient changes since the DOJ opened its investigation after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in August 2014. The grievances are outlined in a 56-page civil lawsuit.

“The residents of Ferguson deserve what every American is guaranteed under the Constitution,” Lynch said during the conference.

Last March, the DOJ concluded that Ferguson police regularly violate residents’ constitutional rights and unfairly target African-Americans. After 10 months of negotiations, last month Ferguson city officials reached a tentative 131-page consent decree with the DOJ that would establish programs restoring trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they patrol. Police officers would also be required to undergo additional training to ensure that they police “lawfully and ethically.”

However, the Ferguson city council rejected the agreement last night in an anonymous vote. Members said that they would only agree to the recommendations if the DOJ pushed the deadlines back, capped federal monitoring fees at $1 million and eliminate any provisions that could lead to an increase in officer salaries.

“We strongly believe that this agreement, with the modest changes approved by the council last evening, achieves the goals of this consent decree,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said at a news conference earlier today.

Lynch said that city officials were aware that a refusal to approve the decree could result in a federal lawsuit.

“Residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights—the rights guaranteed to all Americans—for decades,” Lynch said. “They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

Ferguson city officials have not responded to the lawsuit.

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