By Matt Pearce
The city of Ferguson, Mo., must now defend itself against a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice after months of negotiations failed to bring a compromise on a package of reforms designed to revamp the city's controversial policing practices.
City of Ferguson Finances Itself Via Mass Traffic Ticket Blitzing of Blacks — It's The Second Biggest Source of City's Income (Video)
Parasitic Ferguson Judge Behind 'Make Money Off Blacks With Fines' Program Owes $170,000 in Unpaid Taxes
Ferguson's Official Criminals Running For Cover: Judge, City Manager and Police Chief Resign — What About The Prosecutor?
All Arrest Warrants Issued In Ferguson Prior to 2015 Withdrawn — Ticketing Blacks Was Key Source of Funds
U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch announced the action against Ferguson on Wednesday, a day after federal officials said Ferguson’s City Council tried to unilaterally modify and pass its own version of reforms.
A “disappointed” Lynch criticized Ferguson’s city leaders for trying to amend a package of reforms that had been hammered out between city and federal officials after seven months of what she called “painstaking” negotiations. The reforms include the mandatory use of body cameras and a repeal of city laws that allow police to jail people for not paying fines.
In a 6-0 vote Tuesday night, the City Council said it would only accept the package if the Justice Department agreed to several conditions that included limits on staffing mandates and longer deadlines.
“Every part of that document was discussed and was negotiated extensively,” Lynch said in a televised news conference in Washington, D.C.
Lynch added, “The city was well aware that had they decided not to accept it, they were choosing litigation.”
Ferguson became a national symbol of troubled policing after the August 2014 police shooting death of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer led to riots and lengthy protests in the predominantly African American St. Louis suburb.
An ensuing Department of Justice investigation found no reason to charge the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, who said Brown had charged at him. Federal investigators could not prove activists’ claims that Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him.
But a separate department investigation found that the city's police force systematically racially profiled and harassed black residents. The Justice Department report released last March found that the city’s overwhelmingly white police force set dogs on black residents and that officers were seven times more likely to use force on black residents than whites. Black drivers were almost twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during a traffic stop even though they were less likely to be found in possession of something illegal.