Ferguson, Mo., to hear from public on proposed justice reforms

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2016 10:25 AM

By Sue Britt

FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - Residents of Ferguson, Missouri, which has a proposed agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform its police department after the 2014 shooting by a white officer of a black teenager, will voice their opinions on the deal at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson exposed tension between the city government and the largely black community outside St. Louis that erupted into violent protests in 2014 after a grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

It was one of a series of highly publicized killings of black men, mostly by white police officers, that set off a nationwide debate about the use of police force, especially against minorities.

The Justice Department issued a sharply critical report last year that documented discriminatory actions by Ferguson police and the municipal court system, especially against blacks.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, which were posted on the city's website, the Ferguson police department would be required to give its officers bias-awareness training, implement a strong accountability system and ensure that police stop, search and arrest practices do not discriminate on the basis of race or other protected characteristics.

The settlement also would require the city to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failure to pay certain fines and an ordinance used against individuals who do not comply with police orders.

Ferguson's city council plans to vote on Feb. 9 on whether to accept the agreement. Public comments also will be taken on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, and in writing before the vote.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Sue Britt in Ferguson, Missouri; Editing by Dan Grebler)