Justice Dept. sues Ferguson over alleged racial bias

By Shawn Price  |  Feb. 10, 2016 at 10:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department is suing the city of Ferguson, Mo. after city leaders rejected the recent settlement over its embattled police force because of costs.

The settlement would have brought sweeping changes to a police force accused of "racially discriminatory policing," since an officer shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in 2014. The officer was never charged in Brown's death.

"There is no cost for constitutional policing,'' Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the lawsuit Wednesday. She showed her exasperation with city leaders who "rejected the consent decree approved by their own negotiators. Their decision leaves us no further choice.''

Following a Justice Department investigation that found "systemic and systematic" racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department, the federal government reached a tentative agreement with the city last month after more than two years of negotiations.

The lawsuit alleges Ferguson engages in law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and federal civil rights laws.

"I think the city of Ferguson had a real opportunity to step forward here,'' Lynch said. "Instead, they have chosen to step in the past.''

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles defended the city council's unanimous decision to reject the deal -- or at least to revise it -- because it required large pay raises for local police officers. The city said it also wanted to avoid being bound by the agreement if the city eventually scrapped its police for another law enforcement agency.

"The ball is in their court," Knowles said at a news conference. "We're sitting and waiting to talk. If they want to threaten legal action, then that's what they're threatening."

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