Ferguson Accepts U.S. Government’s Police Reform Plan

Sue Britt, Reuters, March 15, 2016

The Ferguson, Missouri, city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the city’s police department after the 2014 shooting of an unarmed black teenager that sparked violent protests.

City officials indicated last week that they would likely accept terms of the consent decree, after receiving assurances from the Justice Department that it would work with Ferguson to ensure the agreement would not cripple city finances.

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Last year, a U.S. investigation found systemic racial bias by police targeted blacks and created a “toxic environment” in Ferguson, but cleared the white officer in the fatal shooting.

The report said the St. Louis suburb disproportionately arrested and issued traffic citations to blacks to boost city coffers through fines, used police as a collection agency and created a culture of distrust that exploded when Wilson fatally shot Brown.

The agreement with the Justice Department requires Ferguson’s police department to give officers bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system. The city also agreed that police must ensure that stop, search and arrest practices do not discriminate on the basis of race or other factors protected under law.

The settlement also requires the city to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failure to pay certain fines.

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