Ferguson City Council accepts Department of Justice consent decree

Mar 16, 2016

Ferguson has decided to adopt the Department of Justice’s consent decree that has made headlines over the past year. The City Council initially rejected the decree and attempted to implement changes. Members have now changed their minds.

“This is the best way for us to move forward together. There’s still a lot of work to be done. This is a step in the right direction,” said Mayor James Knowles.

The proposed agreement between Ferguson and the U.S. Department of Justice calls for significant changes to the city’s police department and government structure, including the use of body cameras, better community policing, more police training and changes in certain municipal codes.

The City Council initially rejected parts of the decree because of the burden it placed on the city. Members said then they would agree to the proposal if changes were made to eliminate a mandate to pay city employees higher salaries, extend the deadlines for compliance, and no longer apply the decree to other governmental entities.   

Now that the council has approved it, member Wesley Bell sees his city becoming an example: “We have a unique opportunity to control our destiny because we can show what change will look like. Unlike other cities where they can implement some of these changes and no one will pay attention. Well if we do it, they will.”

Zeke Davis-Isgrig, right, Dennis Bailey, center, and Isaiah Davis-Isgrig hold up signs during the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Consent Decree Timeline

Ferguson activists and residents listen to public comments before the city council's vote on the consent decree.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Cheers greeted the council members after the vote was unanimously made to support the consent decree. Michael Brown Sr. shook Mayor Knowles’ hand and expressed support of the council’s decision.

“It’s sad it took a loss for people to clean up what they’d been doing forever. You gotta start somewhere, and by them trying to start and change something in honor of Mike Brown Jr., actually, it’s beautiful,” said Brown.

“At the end of the day I still lost my son, you know, nothing can ever bring him back,” he said.

Michael Brown Sr. and organizers with his Chosen for Change Foundation talk outside the Ferguson Community Center after the City Council's vote to approve the terms of the Department of Justice's consent decree.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The decree still has to be approved by a judge after negotiations regarding specific language take place between lawyers representing Ferguson and their counterparts from the Department of Justice.

The city has tax proposals on the April 5 ballot that are designed to tackle a budget deficit.