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DOJ reaches agreement with Ferguson, calls for revamped justice system and other reforms

By Doug G. Ware   |   Jan. 27, 2016 at 9:24 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- An agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Ferguson, Mo., seeks to completely overhaul the city's system of justice and eliminate unlawful arrests, documents released Wednesday said.

The agreement is the result of many months of investigating by Justice officials into the protocols and practices of the Ferguson Police Department following the controversial death of Michael Brown.

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The accord specifies that Ferguson's justice system is to be rebuilt, unlawful arrests to be eliminated, and criminal courts to operate independently from prosecutors. It also protects the rights of citizens to video-record or take still photos of police officers in the course of their job.

Although the agreement was reached, it still requires a public comment period and final approval by the Ferguson City Council.

Brown, a black teenager, was shot by a white Ferguson police officer in August 2014. Brown was found to be unarmed and the case sparked international outcry.

Numerous activists expressed outrage, while government officials condemned the shooting. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder even said in March that federal authorities would completely disband the city's police department, if necessary.

The agreement, if approved, would spare the city an ugly and expensive court battle with the federal government -- and would revamp the municipality's entire justice system, not just the Ferguson Police Department.

"The provisions of this Agreement are meant to ensure protection of the constitutional and other legal rights of all members of the community, improve Ferguson's ability to effectively prevent crime, enhance both officer and public safety, and increase public confidence in the Ferguson Police Department," the agreement text states.

"This Agreement sets forth terms and requirements for the City and [police] to continue to reorient their approach to law enforcement to focus on community engagement and collaborative partnerships with groups and individuals throughout Ferguson, including those segments of the community that have not previously had strong or positive relationships with Ferguson Police Department or the City."

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