One month after the city council of Ferguson, Missouri, balked at a series of Justice Department-ordered police reforms, council members will return to their chambers Tuesday to possibly reconsider — and contemplate the grim possibility of federal legal action.
The council has described the seven reforms — which include the use of body cameras and the recruitment of a more diverse police force — as too costly, and on Feb. 9, the council approved an amended version of the Justice Department’s consent decree.
The reforms came after the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Though a subsequent federal investigation cleared Wilson, officials found widespread misconduct, abuse and discriminatory practices among Ferguson police officers and courts.
But Department of Justice officials criticized the city council's move last month, saying its members were attempting to “unilaterally amend a negotiated agreement.”
“Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said.
In a letter to Ferguson Mayor James Knowles on Friday, Gupta said that there would be no “re-opening of the long process that led to the agreement” and that the department is “fully prepared to litigate this matter.”
The letter added that the recruitment provision was negotiated to address local officials’ own “concerns” about competitive salaries, low officer retention rates and the need to attract “a highly qualified workforce.”
It is unclear how city council members will vote Tuesday. Citing “assurances” of technical assistance and training that is to be provided by the department, a statement Monday said the council “may reconsider whether or not to authorize the propose settlement.”