Justice Department Sues Ferguson to Enforce Police Reforms - CourtSide

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Justice Department Sues Ferguson to Enforce Police Reforms

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Ferguson, Missouri, claiming the city "engages in an ongoing pattern or practice of conduct, including discrimination, that deprives persons of rights, privileges and immunities secured and protected by the United States Constitution and federal law." The lawsuit is the result of Ferguson trying to back out of an agreement between the city and the DOJ to implement suggested reforms to correct unconstitutional practices on the part of the city's police force and municipal court system.

"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," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer."

How Many Civil Rights Violations Did You Commit?

The lawsuit mirrors the findings of a DOJ investigation into Ferguson's criminal justice system last year. That investigation was triggered by the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, and found that police routinely violated residents' civil rights, and that systematic racial profiling and a priority on revenue production led to law enforcement and court officials engaging in illegal and unconstitutional behavior.

The Justice Department made 26 specific recommendations to correct unconstitutional behavior in Ferguson, including improved training and oversight, changes to police practices to reduce racial bias, and focusing police and court procedures on public safety rather than revenue.

How Many Civil Rights Violations Can You Afford?

Almost a year after that report was made public, Ferguson city officials raised concerns about how much implementation of the recommendations would cost. On Tuesday, the city council voted unanimously to change the terms, knowing full well that the Department of Justice was likely to respond with a lawsuit. "It will cost more to implement the agreement than it will be to fight a lawsuit," said Mayor James Knowles III. "There's no point in agreeing to something we can't afford."

We'll find out how much fighting the lawsuit will cost, since the DOJ filed suit the very next day. You can see the full lawsuit below:

The United States v. City of Ferguson, Complaint by FindLaw