Ferguson votes to approve DOJ consent decree

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FERGUSON, MO – The City Council in Ferguson, Missouri, says it will approve an agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice only if some changes are made.

The council's unanimous 6-0 vote Tuesday sent a consent decree that outlines police and justice reforms back to the Justice Department with seven proposed amendments, city spokesman Jeff Small said. The vote authorized the agreement, if the changes are made.

The amendments to the agreement that city officials say must be met for it to go into effect include:

• That it contains no mandate for the payment of additional salary to police or other city employees.

• That it contains no mandate for staffing at the city's jail.

• That the deadlines set forth are extended.

• That the terms do not apply to other agencies that take over services currently provided by the city.

• That a provision for local preference in contractors and consultants is included.

• That goals for minority and women participation in consulting, oversight and third-party services are included.

• That monitoring fee caps are changed to $1 million over the first five years and no more than $250,000 in any single year.

The original proposed agreement, negotiated last month, would require the city to hire additional senior staff dedicated to the implementation of the deal and in areas such as crisis intervention and community-police relations. Other costs to the city of Ferguson would include the creation of an electronic complaint tracking system, an early intervention system and training throughout various levels of the police department.

The vote "creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city," the Department of Justice said in a statement. It "marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers," it said.

"The Department of Justice must accept the seven amendments in order for the settlement agreement to be valid," the city said in a statement released Tuesday night.

"We're not trying to take away any safeguards. We're not trying anything substantive out of the decree," Mayor James Knowles told CNN affiliate KMOV.

Justice Department found pattern of discrimination

Last March, the Justice Department determined the Ferguson Police Department had demonstrated a "pattern and practice" of discrimination against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force and jail sentences.

The report said some Ferguson police officers saw residents as "sources of revenue," leading to practices that federal investigators said disproportionately targeted black residents.

The 102-page report also found evidence of racist jokes sent by some Ferguson police officers and court officials.

The Justice Department investigation came in the wake of the August 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police Officer Darren Wilson. Brown was black, and Wilson is white.

The department made 26 recommendations, including:

• Ferguson police provide training to ensure officers aren't using bias in policing.

• Officers practice community policing by getting out of cars and getting to know communities.

• Focus police stops, searches and ticketing on protecting the public, as opposed to fundraising for the city.

Also in March, the Justice Department declined to bring civil rights charges against Wilson in the death of Brown, who was not armed. Brown's death prompted days of protests and riots in Ferguson and a national conversation about the role of race in police interactions with citizens.

Justice Department investigators concluded Brown was moving toward the officer when Wilson fired. A grand jury also declined to indict Wilson, who left the force in November 2014.

CNN's Sara Sidner, Catherine E. Shoichet, Dani Stewart and Sheena Jones contributed to this report.

By Steve Almasy and Dave Alsup

Ferguson city council members vote to conditionally approve an agreement with the Department of Justice

FERGUSON, Mo - In a 6-0 vote, Ferguson City Council members voted in favor of a Bill that authorized an agreement, subject to certain conditions, between the City and the Department of Justice. Upon its passage, the Bill becomes an Ordinance and City officials are authorized to execute an amended settlement agreement with the Department of Justice.

Those seven conditions on acceptance are that (i) the agreement contain no mandate for the payment of additional salary to police department or other city employees; (ii) the agreement contain no mandate for staffing in the Ferguson Jail; (iii) deadlines set forth in the agreement are extended; and (iv) the terms of the agreement shall not apply to other governmental entities or agencies who, in the future, take over services or operations currently being provided by the City of Ferguson; (v) a provision for local preference in contracting with consultants, contractors and third parties providing services under the agreement shall be included; (vi) project goals for minority and women participation in consulting, oversight and third party services shall be included; and (vii) the monitoring fee caps in the Side Agreement are changed to $1 million over the first five years with no more than $250,000 in any single year.

The Department of Justice must accept the seven amendments in order for the settlement agreement to be valid. If the Department of Justice accepts the seven amendments, it is expected that the amended settlement agreement will be filed with the federal court in St. Louis for approval by the Federal Judge.

Following months of negotiation with representatives of the Department of Justice, the City of Ferguson received the proposed agreement from the Department on January 26. The City held three community meetings on Feb. 2, 6, and 9, seeking public input from the citizens of Ferguson concerning the agreement.

During the time period for public review and comment, concerns about cost and the comprehensive and far-reaching scale of the agreement were voiced. The conditions of approval address those concerns to some extent.

The historic vote avoids the time and cost of litigation and allows the City to continue its focus to ensure constitutional policing and court practices, and provides these benefits to the citizens of Ferguson.

The agreement is outlined in twenty initiatives and states that the provisions of this agreement are meant to ensure protection of the constitutional and other legal rights of all members of the community, improve Ferguson’s ability to effectively prevent crime, enhance both officer and public safety, and increase public confidence in the Ferguson Police Department (FPD).

City of Ferguson – add one

“During the past seven-months, we have worked very hard to ensure that our negotiations were feasible and realistic for the citizens of Ferguson,” said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III. “Although we did not get everything we wanted in the agreement, we certainly made sure that what was agreed upon, can be implemented in a timely and sufficient manner.”

A negotiating team including City Council members Wesley Bell, Mark Byrne and Mayor James Knowles III, negotiated with the Department of Justice on behalf of the City.

Both the Department of Justice and Ferguson officials agree to implement the following initiatives within time frames set forth in the agreement.

The terms and conditions include the following:

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT:

The City will begin to host and participate in a series of small-group structured dialogues, arranged and led by a qualified neutral facilitator, between police officers and community members and groups, with an emphasis on community members and groups who previously have not had strong or positive relationships with FPD or the City.

REFORM OF THE FERGUSON MUNICIPAL CODE:

To ensure constitutional enforcement of the Ferguson Municipal Code (“Code”)

and further promote community-oriented policing, the City agrees to revise the Code and ensure

that it comports with the United States Constitution and other laws; establishes clearly defined

municipal offenses and appropriate penalties for violations; and adequately protects the public

health, safety, and welfare.

POLICIES AND TRAINING:

To ensure that officers have the knowledge, skills, and direction necessary to police constitutionally, effectively, and in a manner that promotes both officer and public safety,

the City agrees to continue to enhance its policies and increase the quality and scope of training

provided to FPD officers and other FPD employees.

BIAS-FREE POLICE AND COURT PRACTICES:

This Agreement, in its entirety, will be implemented in a manner that ensures

equal protection of the law for all individuals, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin,

religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected characteristics.

VOLUNTARY CONTACTS, STOPS, SEARCHES, CITATIONS, AND ARRESTS:

The City agrees to ensure that all FPD voluntary encounters, investigatory stops

and detentions, searches, citations, and arrests are conducted in accordance with the rights,

privileges, and immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and the laws of the United

States.

FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTED ACTIVITY:

The parties acknowledge that First Amendment protected activities serve important societal functions, including promoting transparency in government affairs, ensuring accountability of public officials, and

City of Ferguson – add two

encouraging community feedback—whether critical or laudatory—that ultimately reduce tension and foster a sense of openness and trust between law enforcement and the public.

FORCE:

The agreement outlines several procedures that dictate when force may be used and for required reporting, oversight and investigation.

CRISIS INTERVENTION:

The Police Department will implement a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) first-responder model of police-based crisis intervention with community, health care, and advocacy partnerships to: (a) assist individuals who are in mental health crisis or who are in crisis related to the influence of alcohol or drugs (“individuals in crisis”); (b) reduce the need to use significant force against

individuals in crisis and improve the safety of patrol officers, individuals in crisis and their

families, and others within the community; (c) provide the foundation necessary to promote

community solutions to assist individuals with mental illness; and (d) reduce the need for

individuals with mental illness to have further involvement with the criminal justice system.

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM:

Additional policies and procedures are incorporated into the Department’s School Resource Officer Program.

BODY-WORN AND IN-CAR CAMERAS:

In an effort to bring continued transparency regarding police activities; improve

the effectiveness and reliability of use-of-force and misconduct investigations; enhance

supervision of FPD stops, searches, and arrests; and provide material for officer training, the City

will equip FPD officers with body-worn and in-car cameras, and will ensure that such devices

are used consistent with law and policy.

SUPERVISION:

Additional requirements apply to supervisors within the police department to ensure that the terms of the agreement are carried out.

OFFICER ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT:

The City will provide certain services and assistance to police officers to ensure the officers’ physical and mental well-being.

RECRUITMENT:

The City will conduct a broader outreach in attempts to recruit a highly-qualified diverse workforce and will offer one scholarship per year for a candidate to attend the St. Louis County Police Academy.

PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS AND PROMOTIONS:

The City agrees to ensure its policies for performance evaluations and promotions

support and recognize officers who police effectively, lawfully, and ethically.

SUPPLEMENTAL RECRUIT AND IN-SERVICE TRAINING:

To ensure that officers have the knowledge and skills to police constitutionally

and carry out the requirements of this Agreement, the City agrees to provide and require training which

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far exceeds the State’s training requirements.

MUNICIPAL COURT REFORM:

The City will adopt, as part of its Municipal Code, procedures applicable to the jail and the Municipal

Court and will make certain recommendations to the Municipal Judge.

ACCOUNTABILITY:

The City agrees to certain principles of accountability and agrees to a more-detailed complaint process.

CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT:

To promote transparent and community-centered law enforcement, the City

agrees to continue and expand its commitment to establishing meaningful civilian oversight of

the police department, primarily through a Civilian Review Board.

DATA COLLECTION, REPORTING, AND TRANSPARENCY:

The City agrees to ensure the collection and tracking of all police and

municipal court data that is: (a) necessary to enable the City’s ongoing assessment and

improvement of its law enforcement practices, as discussed throughout the Agreement; (b)

necessary to enable the Monitor to conduct the outcome assessments; and

(c) otherwise required by the Agreement, policy, and applicable law.

MONITORING, COMPLIANCE ASSESSMENT, AND ENFORCEMENT:

The Parties will jointly select an Independent Monitor (“Monitor”), which will be

a team of individuals highly qualified in policing, civil rights, monitoring, and related areas, to

assess and report on whether the requirements of the Agreement have been implemented, and

whether this implementation is resulting in constitutional and otherwise lawful policing and

administration of justice, and increased community trust between the public and the Ferguson

Police Department and Court. The Monitor will work with the Parties to identify and address

any barriers to compliance.

The projected cost of the consent decree is outlined in the table shown below. To view the entire

consent decree, log on to the city of Ferguson’s website at www.fergusoncity.com.

 

Statement from head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta regarding Ferguson, Missouri, city council vote on proposed consent decree

WASHINGTON – Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, released the following statement regarding the Ferguson, Missouri, City Council vote on the proposed consent decree with the Department of Justice:

“The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement.  Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers.  Both parties engaged in thoughtful negotiations over many months to create an agreement with cost-effective remedies that would ensure Ferguson brings policing and court practices in line with the Constitution.  The agreement already negotiated by the department and the city will provide Ferguson residents a police department and municipal court that fully respects civil rights and operates free from racial discrimination.

“The Department of Justice will take the necessary legal actions to ensure that Ferguson’s policing and court practices comply with the Constitution and relevant federal laws.”

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