US justice department sues Ferguson to force police reforms

The US Justice Department sued Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday to force the city to change its police department and court system after the federal government found both to be biased against minorities.

The St Louis suburb, a symbol of problems with policing and race in the United States, earlier on Wednesday said it wanted to change an agreement it had negotiated with the federal government due to the costs involved.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” attorney general Loretta Lynch said at a news conference.

She said the agreement that was decided upon had been painstakingly negotiated and Ferguson officials knew that rejecting it would invite litigation.

Ferguson officials had no immediate comment on the civil rights lawsuit, said spokesperson Jeff Small.


The justice department initiated a civil rights investigation into Ferguson’s policing after an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer in 2014.

It was one of several killings of black men, mostly by white officers, that started a nationwide debate about the use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.

It resulted in a justice department report that was extremely critical of Ferguson’s police and court systems.

Mayor James Knowles told a news conference that reforms had to be affordable and attainable. “It serves no one’s purpose for us to fail,” he said.

Ferguson’s city council voted on Tuesday to accept the reform agreement, called a consent decree, as long as the city did not have to increase police officers’ pay and police staffing levels. It also said it wanted more time to comply with the other terms.

Knowles said that only in the last two weeks had the city been able to analyse the costs of implementing the decree.

He and city council members said Ferguson had already made some reforms, including community policing and a civilian review board to oversee police.

Civil rights advocates warned that litigation with the justice department could cost more than implementing the agreement.

“This decision only creates the potential for the type of litigation that creates more financial challenges that will be a burden on poor people,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a national civil rights organisation.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

The challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine in Africa requires a new approach

It is imperative that we train healthcare workers and participate in continent-wide collaboration

Spain detains software creator McAfee wanted in US

The announcement of his arrest comes a day after US prosecutors released an indictment against McAfee for allegedly failing to report income

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday