More than a year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice on Wednesday filed suit against the city, calling on it to reform its police department and court system.
The lawsuit came after the Ferguson City Council on Tuesday rejected a consent decree reached after several weeks of negotiations with the DOJ, under a pretense Ferguson has displayed a pattern of unconstitutional policing and was using its court procedure as a source of income, particularly against the African American community.
“The residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch during a press conference. “They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”
Among the allegations referenced by Justice Department court documents were the conducting of stops, searches and arrests without legal justification and use of excessive force to suppress freedom of expression – violations of the Fifth and First Amendments.
Soon after word spread of the August 2014 fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a wave of protests began that carried a ripple effect felt across the country. The initial police response to the first round of protests drew criticism, as images of riot gear-clad officers and armored trucks circulated.
The DOJ additionally charged the Ferguson court system regularly engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans, which violates the 14th Amendment.
Brown’s father stood in the back of a crowded Ferguson Community Center on Saturday as the City Council took public comment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The body was mulling over its agreement with the DOJ and took issue with many of its provisions, which city officials said could lead to Ferguson dissolving as an independent entity.
“We believe we don’t need an agreement to start moving forward on these reforms,” said Councilman Wesley Bell.