Justice Department seeks legal action against Ferguson over policing agreement
Feb 11, 2016 07:14 AM EST
The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that it is exploring legal action against the city of Ferguson, Missouri after the city council decided to amend a proposed consent decree. The city council in the St. Louis suburb made several revisions regarding the city's municipal court operations and law-enforcement practices.
The revisions could save the city money but also appear to bring policing in the city in line with the Constitution.
The changes to the consent decree including the removal of mandate requiring for payment of additional salary to police officers or jail staffs. Lawmakers also extended deadlines for the tentative agreement, NBC News reports.
The tentative agreement was announced by the city of Ferguson's leaders and the Justice Department last month amid a federal investigation of Ferguson's law-enforcement practices. The federal probe was conducted after the 2014 death shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer.
In the tentative deal, Ferguson would agree to overhaul its police department and court systems, and the Justice Department would release the city from civil claims the federal government has filed against it, The Wall Street Journal reports.
But Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and council members raised concerns about the costs of implementing the agreement. The city official estimated the deal could cost the city nearly $10 million over the next three years.
On Tuesday, the Ferguson City Council voted 6-0 to modify some terms in the agreement. The revisions would be approved in condition that the Justice Department agree to the changes.
The Justice Department scolded the revisions and could file a civil rights suit against Ferguson city to enforce the agreement. According to USA Today, head of the Justice Department Vanita Gupta said that the DoJ will take "necessary legal actions to ensure that Ferguson's policing and court practices comply with the Consitution and relevant federal laws."
After the city's vote, the Justice Department released a statement that the Ferguson City Council has attempted to "unliterally amend the negotiated agreement." The Justice Department said that the vote creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city.
The Justice Department said in the statement that the deal already negotiated by the department and the city will provide Ferguson a police department and municipal court that fully respect civil rights and operates free from racial discrimination.
One of Ferguson's negotiator for the agreement, Councilman Wesley Bell, said he hopes that the city will be able to avoid court battle with the Justice Department.