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Ferguson Reaches Tentative Deal With Justice Department

The deal comes after the Justice Department found a pattern of racially biased policing in the wake of Michael Brown's death.
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The city of Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday unveiled an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to address racially biased policing uncovered in the wake of the 2014 death of Michael Brown.

The consent decree requires more training for police officers, policy changes to decrease use of force, and a more robust system for citizens to make complaints against officers. It also requires that the mostly-white police force do more to recruit minorities.

The city would repeal laws like its "failure to comply" ordinance — which the Justice Department found was overwhelmingly used against black residents — and change its city code to make sure local laws are constitutional and fairly applied.

"The city and the Department of Justice have been able to reach an agreement about which, we believe, the entire Ferguson community has reason to be proud,” Vanita Gupta, who heads the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a Tuesday letter to Ferguson Mayor Mike Knowles III.

Related: Will New Law Solve Ferguson's Problems?

The city of around 20,000 exploded in racial unrest after Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot by white Police Officer Darren Wilson just after noon on Aug. 9, 2014.

A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, but the Justice Department launched an investigation and found what it called a pattern of racially-biased policing in Ferguson, with blacks disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched, or hit with minor offenses like jaywalking.

Ferguson City Council will vote whether to accept the agreement on Feb. 9. The deal follows seven months of negotiations between the city and the Justice Department.

City government called the deal “represents the best agreement that the city’s representatives were able to obtain for the citizens of Ferguson,” and that it would avoid expensive litigation.

Related: Justice Department Finds Pattern of Biased Policing in Ferguson

The Justice Department report was followed by a wave of resignations in Ferguson’s government. Police Chief Thomas Jackson stepped down, the city’s municipal judge, and city manager. Wilson, the officer who shot Brown and was cleared, also resigned.

The city’s new judge, Donald McCullin, in August announced plans to withdraw thousands of arrest warrants, mostly for failure to appear or failing to pay fines.

State legislators also passed a law capping the revenue that Missouri courts an collect from traffic tickets, or from jailing people for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation.