Ferguson Approves Police And Courts Overhaul — With Some Changes – LAURA WAGNER Updated February 10, 20161:32 AM ET Published February 9, 201611:31 PM ET

Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, (second from left) speaks during a city council meeting on Feb. 2. The meeting was the first opportunity for residents to speak directly with city leaders about the preliminary consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, (second from left) speaks during a city council meeting on Feb. 2. The meeting was the first opportunity for residents to speak directly with city leaders about the preliminary consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. — Jeff Roberson/AP

The city council of Ferguson, Mo., agreed late Monday to implement intensive changes to the city’s police department and court system, under a consent decree negotiated by city officials with the U.S. Justice Department. But, concerned about the price tag, the council made some changes.

If Ferguson and the Justice Department don’t agree on all the terms, federal prosecutors could file a civil rights lawsuit, which could prove more costly than the reforms, the Associated Press reported.

The Justice Department responded quickly with dismay. In a statement, Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said:

“The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the 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. Both parties engaged in thoughtful negotiations over many months to create an agreement with cost-effective remedies that would ensure Ferguson brings policing and court practices in line with the Constitution. The agreement already negotiated by the department and the city will provide Ferguson residents a police department and municipal court that fully respects civil rights and operates free from racial discrimination.

“The Department of Justice will take the necessary legal actions to ensure that Ferguson’s policing and court practices comply with the Constitution and relevant federal laws.”

As the Two-Way previously reported, the package includes a number of facets, and would require the city to submit to independent monitoring.

The 127-page proposed agreement creates guidelines for training police officers on issues such as when they should use force and how to “reorient Ferguson’s use-of-force policies toward de-escalation and avoiding force.” The agreement also requires body-worn cameras and an overhaul of the municipal court system.

The implementation of the plan is expected to be pricey. The AP reports that “the city estimates it would cost $2.2 million to $3.7 million to implement the agreement in the first year, and $1.8 million to $3 million in the second and third years.”

The AP also reports:

“Councilman Wesley Bell, who proposed the changes, said he was confident the Department of Justice would agree.

“‘I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable,’ Bell said.”

The biggest change made by the council was dropping an increase in police officers’ salaries; officials believe that would also require higher firefighter salaries, at a cost to the city of $1 million, the AP reported. The amended plan will require Justice Department approval, but the city said it would begin making many of the changes immediately.

The approval of the amended document came at the end of a raucous city council meeting, at which many attendees voiced their support for the agreement as-is.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that audience member Kayla Reed said if the city had enough money to buy and use tear gas on protesters, it has enough money to follow the Justice Department’s requirements.

The price tag prompted some in the community to urge the council to reject the agreement, arguing that the plan could bankrupt Ferguson, which has an annual budget of $14.5 million, according to the AP.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, however, said in a statement on Tuesday that cost should not be a prohibiting factor and urged the council to vote yes.

“We encourage Ferguson officials to think creatively about how to meet the costs of implementation of the proposed consent decree,” Monique Dixon, LDF’s Deputy Director and Senior Counsel said in the statement. “This may include consulting with other cities that have successfully implemented similar consent decrees, accepting any free technical assistance from the DOJ, and applying for state or federal grants.”

The Justice Department began an investigation into Ferguson after white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, on August 9, 2014. Wilson was later cleared by a St. Louis County grand jury and by the Justice Department. After the decision, the Justice Department opened an investigation into Ferguson’s police department. The consent decree was the product of the months of negotiation between the city and the DOJ.

At the city council meeting Tuesday night, citizens weighed in on the proposed plan, some claiming it was too costly to implement; others arguing it was too costly not to. Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., attended the meeting wearing a sweatshirt that read “Justice for Mike Brown,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Why Did It Take More Than a Year to Charge the Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald? – By Leon Neyfakh November 2015

A former prosecutor, now running to be Cook County state’s attorney, decries Chicago’s crawl to justice.

 Kim Foxx. Photo courtesy Friends for Foxx

Kim Foxx.
Photo courtesy Friends for Foxx

One of the central players in the aftermath of Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of a Chicago police officer has been Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney. Alvarez, who was elected as the county’s top prosecutor in 2008, was tasked with investigating McDonald’s death and deciding whether to bring charges against Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot him. It took Alvarez a full 13 months to make that decision, and now that Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder, many are asking what took so long. The National Bar Association has gone so far as to call for Alvarez’s resignation, saying in a statement that “it is unacceptable that it took over a year to file these charges.”

Alvarez’s decision-making during the investigation of Van Dyke holds special relevance in light of the re-election contest she faces in March. Among her challengers is Kim Foxx, a former prosecutor in Cook County who is running on a reform platform, and who has not been shy about condemning her old boss’s handling of the McDonald case.

I spoke to Foxx by phone about how she would have approached the Van Dyke investigation differently, why police officers seem to escape accountability so often, and how public opinion about how prosecutors should do their jobs has shifted in recent years. Our conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

Laquan McDonald was killed more than a year ago. Why did it take so long for charges to be filed against the officer who shot him?

It did not need to take 13 months for this case to come to a resolution. I worked as a prosecutor here in Cook County for 12 years, and had the benefit of reviewing cases in our felony review unit, and I can tell you this was what we would consider to be a slam dunk. It’s not a matter of whodunit. You know who did it. You had a videotape and a vantage point that clearly shows where Laquan was in relation to the officer. You had eyewitnesses, both civilian and police. You had the autopsy report, which was available within days. So this wasn’t difficult. This was a case that really just sits in your lap. It is a false narrative to suggest that this case was so highly complex that it takes 13 months. That is a false narrative. It is a lie. There are special things you have to do when you’re looking at a police shooting. There is an extra layer of due diligence that you have to do. But that doesn’t take months.

So what I would say is it took 13 months because they were waiting for the heat of Ferguson to die down. Laquan McDonald was killed in October of ’14, which was two months after Ferguson. This was a case that was eerily similar to that one, and the state’s attorney’s office didn’t want the heat.

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Ferguson Commission Shines Light On Racially Divided St. Louis – JASON ROSENBAUM SEPTEMBER 14, 2015 1:01 AM ET

Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change. Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change.
Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change.

When Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last August, his death set off riots and violence — and posed deep questions about race relations in America. The Ferguson Commission, appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, was tasked with finding some answers.

The commission set out to examine racial and economic gaps through the St. Louis region, and come up with policy recommendations. In their final report, the commission provides an unvarnished look at how a racially divided St. Louis underserves the African-American community.

The report provides a host of recommendations to transform how the region polices and educates itself – and its most vulnerable citizens. And in many cases, the suggestions would require the backing of a state legislature that may well balk.

In all of this, Starsky Wilson, the co-chairman of the commission, knows he’s venturing into familiar territory.

A Long History Of Failed ‘Riot Commissions’

During the commission’s final meeting last week, Wilson, a St. Louis religious leader, talked about the work of political scientist Lindsey Lupo, who penned a book examining nearly one hundred years of “riot commissions” set up after American rebellion and unrest.

Many of these commissions failed, Lupo argued, because they failed to tackle latent racial tensions and systemic discrimination.

But Wilson and his fellow commission members are taking another path. Wilson looked to places like Cincinnati where residents dealt head-on with their community’s inequities — not just settling for “accommodation and quiet.” And the Commission’s final report, set to be publicly released today, pulls no punches about the underlying causes behind last year’s unrest.

“We have not moved beyond race,” the final report states.

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Federal Ferguson Review Finds More Than 100 Lessons For Police – BRAKKTON BOOKER SEPTEMBER 02, 2015 7:49 PM ET

A new Justice Department report gave a total of 113 lessons learned and a half-dozen themes that "permeated all aspects of the police response" during the height of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new Justice Department report gave a total of 113 lessons learned and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response” during the height of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Obama administration Wednesday issued an after-action assessment of the police response to the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., that erupted last year following the killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black resident of the city, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

The report, conducted by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, focused on the 17-day time frame between Brown’s death and his funeral. The assessment does not provide a lot of new information, but it does provide greater insight into how policing tactics and strategy unfolded during that time when the atmosphere between law enforcement and demonstrators was especially tense.

There were a total of 113 lessons and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response,” according to the report. Some of those included inconsistent leadership, lack of understanding of community concerns with law enforcement and use of “ineffective and inappropriate” tactics that escalated instead of diminishing tensions.

The report made clear it was not casting fault with a particular law enforcement department.

“The purpose of this assessment was to objectively catalogue observations and findings, not place blame or levy accusations against the agencies assessed and their personnel.”

"The use of military weapons and sniper deployment atop military vehicles was inappropriate, inflamed tensions, and created fear among demonstrators," the Department of Justice says.

Investigators found that more than 50 different law enforcement agencies were involved at the height of the response. This led to confusion, questions of which agency was in charge and some “inconsistency of policy applications.”

The report found both the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments used canine units for crowd control at the homicide location on Aug. 9, the day Brown was killed, inappropriately. The canines were used within “accepted policing practices” for tracking suspects on three other occasions.

Militarization tactics during the demonstrations were also called into question by the report, specifically one known as the overwatch tactic, in which officers used rifle sights to survey the crowd from positions atop tactical vehicles.

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U.S. Mayors Say Ferguson Could Happen To Us – By BEN WOFFORD July 28, 2015

City leaders worried about race in policing and schools, POLITICO Magazine survey finds.

Getty Images/Politico Magazine illustration.

Getty Images/Politico Magazine illustration.

The leaders of America’s cities have serious concerns about race relations, minority communities and policing issues as the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of last year’s unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a POLITICO Magazine survey finds. And urban public schools—widely identified by experts as the key to improvement of neighborhood conditions, racial equity and social mobility—won’t offer a solution anytime soon, according to large majorities of mayors who also expressed deep dissatisfaction with the state of their city’s public education systems, citing lack of funding, high drop-out rates and racial segregation as their leading causes of concern.

Fully nine out of 10 mayors surveyed expressed concern about the state of race relations and police in their city, according to the survey, with nearly a third describing themselves as “deeply concerned” about race and policing in their cities. The revelation illustrates the intensity and seriousness with which mayors have taken up the issue, as cities from Baltimore to New York City to Ferguson have dealt with public unrest over the last year.

The findings were part of POLITICO Magazine’s second quarterly national Mayors’ Survey, conducted over the course of July as part of the magazine’s award-winning “What Works” series, which heard from 31 mayors spanning the country from Philadelphia to Tampa to San Francisco to New Orleans to Anchorage. While not scientific—the large majority of respondents were Democrats, 77 percent, as well as three independents and four Republicans—the survey represented a diverse range of cities from across the nation and showed clear trends across cities of varying sizes, political traditions and geographic regions.

Debates and flare-ups around alleged police misconduct have seized cities as disparate as PhiladelphiaMadison and Houston—each governed by mayors who participated in the POLITICO Magazine survey—and across the nation, mayors have begun to lead efforts to repair community trust and broach policy discussions about department conduct.

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Ferguson police shootings condemned by Barack Obama – BBC News 13 March 2015 Last updated at 01:55 ET

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at Mar 13, 2015 1.02

Laura Trevelyan reports: “This is a pivotal moment for Ferguson”


US President Barack Obama says there is “no excuse” for criminal acts in Ferguson, Missouri, one night after two police officers at a protest were shot.

He said the protesters had “legitimate grievances” but described the shooters as “criminals” who should be arrested.

Wednesday’s shootings happened during a demonstration after it was announced the Ferguson Police Chief would resign.

Further protests late on Thursday passed peacefully. The two officers have been released from hospital.

The protests are the latest of many in the city since a policeman shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, last year.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson quit one week after a Justice Department report alleged widespread racial bias in his department and the city’s court system.

Protesters gathered outside the police station after Mr Jackson’s resignation was announced.

Late on Wednesday, one officer was shot in the face and the other was hit in the shoulder as protestors were heading home for the night.

‘Worthy of protest’

“I think that what had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest. But there was no excuse for criminal acts,” President Obama said on the Jimmy Kimmel Live programme on ABC.

“Whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue; they’re criminals,” he added.


Two police officers have been shot in Ferguson, Missouri. Here’s what we know. – Updated by Todd VanDerWerff on March 12, 2015, 2:49 a.m. ET

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at Mar 12, 2015 3.09

What we know

  • Two police officers were shot when Ferguson police confronted protestors who had gathered outside of the police department building.
  • The protests have been ongoing since the death of Mike Brown last summer, but have gained momentum in the wake of revelations from the US Justice Department about the Ferguson Police Department’s treatment of black residents of the city.
  • The officers were taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for treatment.

What we don’t know

  • We do not know if the officers will recover from their injuries. Post-Dispatch crime reporter Susan Byers reported earlier on Twitter that a police source told her both officers were expected to live.
  • The identity of the officers has not been made public.
  • The exact location of the shooters is still unclear as well. Multiple witnesses have asserted to Los Angeles Times reporter Matt D. Pearce, among others, that the shots came from nearby Tiffin Avenue, not from the crowd of protestors.

Vox will update as events warrant.

Correction: This post originally identified “Tiffin Avenue” as “Tiffin Hill.” It has been corrected.


Reform in Ferguson has barely begun. Here’s what happens now.

Now that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson has resigned, is the federal government going to get off the city’s case?

Not hardly. Jackson’s resignation — just like the resignation of the city’s municipal judge, and of three city employees who were caught sending racist emails — might be necessary moves for the city to make. But the Department of Justice spent months investigating deep, systemic problems with the criminal justice system in Ferguson, and it’s not going to walk away just because a few individuals resigned.

The Department of Justice has gone through this sort of thing before: after investigating a local police department, they enter an agreement with the department that requires reforms and federal oversight until the problems are fixed. But that process takes years, a lot of money, and, often, a lot of resources to do paperwork. It’s placed a burden even on large police departments like the Los Angeles Police Department — and could easily be more than Ferguson can handle. There are alternatives to working with the DOJ to make reforms, but they don’t look good for the city, either.

None of the potential plans of action will be painless for the city. But at this point, fixing the relationship between police and residents in Ferguson, and rebuilding trust in the criminal-justice system, depends on the city making the reforms the DOJ suggests. Without cooperation, if not enthusiasm, from local government and police, reform can’t happen. And refusing to get on board with reform isn’t necessarily going to cost Ferguson any less money or time. So the question is what the city of Ferguson can do to make itself acceptable to its citizens again.

Plan A: a consent decree that forces federal oversight of the department for several years

Eric Holder Ron Johnson

Eric Holder has some stern advice for Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, one of the leaders of the police response in Ferguson. (Pool/Getty)

Most of the time, after investigations like this, the federal government and the local police force enter into an agreement called a consent decree, which is enforced by a federal judge. The consent decree says that the department is going to be monitored by the federal government for a while, and lays out reforms the department needs to make before it can be trusted to look after itself again.

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Ferguson city manager John Shaw resigns – BBC News 10 March 2015 Last updated at 23:02 ET

The chief executive of the US city of Ferguson, Missouri has resigned after a federal report alleged widespread racial bias in the city police department and court system.

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

As Ferguson’s city manager, John Shaw, 39, held the legal power to make personnel and policy changes in the police department.

The city council voted unanimously to accept his resignation on Tuesday.

The city’s municipal judge has also resigned as a result of the report.

The city came under investigation after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August, sparking weeks of unrest.

A St Louis County grand jury and the US Justice Department found that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defence when he shot Brown.

But a US Department of Justice investigation found overwhelming racial bias in the town’s policing practices. The report, released last week, detailed how Ferguson officials used the city’s police and court system to generate revenue.

Mayor James KnowlesFerguson Mayor James Knowles has been the public face of the city government

After Brown’s death, Mayor James Knowles has been the public face and voice of Ferguson’s city government.

But Mr Knowles is a part-time employee while Mr Shaw ran day-to-day operations of the city full-time.

“I believe that the city of Ferguson has the resolve to overcome the challenges it faces in the coming months and emerge as a stronger community for it,” Mr Shaw said in a statement.

The Justice Department report repeatedly cited Mr Shaw’s role in encouraging his police force to aggressively ticket motorists as a means to generate revenue.

Mr Shaw said in a statement on Tuesday that his office “never instructed the police department to target African Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor”.


Two Ferguson police officers resign over racist emails uncovered in federal report – Jon Swaine in New York Friday 6 March 2015 18.26 EST

The second-highest ranking commander in the beleaguered police department of Ferguson, Missouri, was one of two veteran officers to resign on Friday over racist emails uncovered by federal investigators.

 Cornel West (second from right) speaks to Ferguson police captain Rick Henke as clergy confront officers in front of the Ferguson police department in October. Photograph: Robert Cohen/Post-Dispatch/Polaris

Cornel West (second from right) speaks to Ferguson police captain Rick Henke as clergy confront officers in front of the Ferguson police department in October. Photograph: Robert Cohen/Post-Dispatch/Polaris

Captain Rick Henke stepped down from his job together with Sergeant William Mudd, a fellow long-serving officer who was awarded the Medal of Valor more than 20 years ago, a spokesperson for the city confirmed on Friday.

Their departures came as Eric Holder, the US attorney general, said he was prepared to demand the dismantling of Ferguson’s entire police department if required for reforms ordered by his department this week in a scathing report on the city’s criminal justice system.

Speaking to a pool reporter at Andrews air force base in Maryland on Friday, Holder said an “entirely new structure” was needed in Ferguson. Asked whether that included closing the police force, he said: “If that’s what’s necessary, we’re prepared to do that.”

The police resignations also followed Wednesday’s firing of Mary Ann Twitty, Ferguson’s municipal court clerk, after she, too, was ensnared in the racist email scandal. Justice Department investigators detailed seven examples of offensive messages they found during searches of tens of thousands of official documents.

Both police officers were involved in policing the months of protests that erupted following the fatal shooting by a white officer of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in August last year.

That unrest prompted Holder to open the inquiry into the in the St Louis suburb’s police and courts system. A second Justice Department inquiry that concluded simultaneously this week decided to bring no federal civil-rights charges against Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown.

Mudd, 64, was linked to an email sent in November 2008 which suggested Barack Obama “would not be president for very long because ‘what black man holds a steady job for four years?’,” according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch, which first reported the officers’ names.

Henke, 59, was said to have been associated with an email sent in May 2011 that stated: “An African American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers’.”

A woman reached by telephone at Mudd’s home address on Friday evening said: “We have no comment about anything.” Henke could not be reached for comment.

Figures released by Ferguson under open records laws last year stated that Henke, who joined the police force in July 1978, was paid $87,555 a year. This was more than any other officer except Chief Thomas Jackson. Henke was also listed as second in line to Jackson on the police department’s website.

Mudd, who was hired in July 1976, was paid $70,741 a year. He is listed as a 1993 recipient of the Medal of Valor, Missouri’s most prestigious honour for police officers. The medal is awarded for officers showing “exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life”.

Holder said in his remarks on Friday that he had been “surprised by what I found” in the inquiry. “I was shocked towards the end by the numbers that we saw, and the breadth of the practices that we uncovered,” he said.

The attorney general described the impact of the city’s practices as “just appalling”.

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