Ferguson to weigh accepting U.S. government's police reform plan

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2016 7:11 AM

By Sue Britt

FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - The Ferguson, Missouri, city council on Tuesday may back down and approve an agreement it reached with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the city's police department after the 2014 shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

The council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. local time (0100 GMT Wednesday) and officials indicated on Monday they may approve the agreement without the changes the city sought last month over cost concerns - which sparked a lawsuit from the Justice Department to force the city to comply.

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

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

The council accepted the basic terms of the agreement last month, but asked federal officials to make changes related to pay levels for police officers and staffing levels at the jail. It also wanted additional time to comply.

If the council votes to approve the agreement without changes, the lawsuit against the city would be resolved.

The agreement requires the police department to give officers bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system. The city also agreed that police must ensure that stop, search and arrest practices do not discriminate on the basis of race or other factors protected under law.

The settlement also requires the city to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failure to pay certain fines.

(Reporting by Sue Britt; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)