October 25, 2016

US sues Ferguson to force police reforms

A man holds a sign during a civil disobedience action on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 10, 2015. (AFP photo)

The US Justice Department has sued the city of Ferguson over civil rights violations to force changes in its police department and court system after the federal government found they were biased against African Americans.

The decision comes hours after Ferguson city leaders sought to revise a long- negotiated agreement with the Justice Department, citing highcosts of executing such a deal.

The St. Louis suburb, located in the state of Missouri, is a symbol of problems with police violence and racial discrimination in the United States.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Lynch said the agreement that was decided upon had been carefully negotiated and Ferguson officials knew that rejecting it would provoke legal action.

Ferguson officials had no immediate comment on the civil rights lawsuit, said spokesman Jeff Small.

The Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation into Ferguson’s law enforcement practices after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014.

Michael Brown’s fatal shooting was one of several killings of black men, mostly by white officers, that started debates and protests across the US about the use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.

Civil rights advocates warned Ferguson officials that fighting a legal battle with the Justice Department would be costly and could prove more expensive in the long-term than settling now.

“This decision only creates the potential for the type of litigation that creates more financial challenges that will be a burden on poor people,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a national civil rights organization.

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