FERGUSON, Mo. (UPI) — Residents of Ferguson, Mo., discussed a proposed consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that could cost the city more than $1.5 million a year.
A federal investigation of the policies of the city government, courts and police, launched after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, prompting days of rioting, accused the city of augmenting its budget and using predatory tactics that violate the Constitution. A 131-page DOJ report, the subject of Tuesday’s meeting, recommended several reforms, including new police use-of-force policies; additional training for officers; body camera requirements and a plan for community policing.
Ferguson City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said Tuesday her quick evaluation of the agreement suggested it would cost the city $1.5 million per year to enforce. Another $350,000 per year would be required to monitor the city’s progress in realizing the improvements. The city is now facing a $2.8 million budget shortfall and will hold a referendum in April on raising taxes.
The meeting Tuesday, the first public discussion of the DOJ consent decree after the city council received it last week, drew an overflow crowd to Ferguson’s council chambers. While many waited in line to attend and could not be accommodated, those in the chamber were divided on the report. Some urged the council to take the DOJ to court, suggesting the city would be dissolved because it was financially unable to comply. Others said following the report’s findings would ensure police officers would respect residents’ rights. Jared Hasten, a lawyer who represented Ferguson in the negotiations that produced the report, said the DOJ could sue the city if an agreement to comply is not signed.
Another hearing on the consent decree is scheduled, in a larger venue, for Saturday, and a second one next Tuesday. The Ferguson City Council is expected to vote on the agreement following these hearings.
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