Ferguson, Missouri releases proposed consent decree

WASHINGTON Ferguson, Missouri is seeking public input on a proposed consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department that would resolve a federal probe into whether it systematically violates citizens’ civil rights.

The investigation began after protests following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in August 2014, exposing tension between the city government and minorities in the community.

The incident was one of a series that sparked demonstrations around the country and prompted a debate about police use of force involving African-Americans.

The proposed agreement will be put to a vote before the Ferguson City Council by Feb. 9.

The settlement would require the city to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failure to pay certain fines and an ordinance used against individuals who do not comply with police orders.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the Ferguson police department would also be required to give its officers bias-awareness training, implement a “robust” accountability system, and ensure that police stop, search, and arrest practices do not discriminate on the basis of race or other protected characteristics.

The proposal “simply encapsulates the elements that any small- to medium-size police department can and should put in place to ensure that its officers conduct themselves in a manner that is constitutional and effective,” wrote the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, in a Tuesday letter to City Council members.

Gupta also said in the letter that she hoped the City Council would approve the agreement so that the department will not have to “resort to contested litigation,” which she said would divert resources and delay implementation of the police and court reform.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Julia Harte; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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