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Ferguson City Council 'May Reconsider' DOJ-Ordered Police Reforms

A month after the Ferguson city council balked at federal police reforms, council members will return to chambers Tuesday to possibly reconsider.

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.

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 12: Demonstrators protesting the killings of 18-year-olds Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri Police officer and Vonderrit Myers Jr. by an off duty St. Louis police officer are confronted by police wearing riot gear on October 12, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area has been struggling to heal since riots erupted in suburban Ferguson following Brown's death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Scott Olson / Getty Images, file

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.”