Ferguson police in talks with Justice Department to avoid civil rights lawsuit

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Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Justice Department says it’s having “productive” conversations with the police department Ferguson, Missouri, about making widespread changes within the agency.

Such an overhaul could avert a civil rights lawsuit that federal officials have the option to bring against departments that resist changing their practices.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said Wednesday that negotiations with the police force to create a court-enforceable consent decree have been productive. She says the Justice Department believes such an agreement must be reached without delay.

Another person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been a “lot of progress” but that sticking points remained.

The federal government launched an investigation into Ferguson’s policing practices last year.