A year and a half after 18-year-old Mike Brown was shot to death, Ferguson is taking a step in fixing a severely broken system within the city. On Tuesday (March 15), the Ferguson City Council approved a previously rejected agreement with the Department of Justice to overhaul the city’s police department.
Reports the STL Today:
The council’s reversal has mostly been attributed to a March 4 letter from Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which suggested the projected costs of the reforms had been overstated.
Finance Director Jeffrey Blume had projected the costs of abiding by the agreement to be as high as $3.7 million in the first year alone.
But that figure was based partly on a provision in the agreement that required Ferguson to offer police competitive salaries.
Blume interpreted the provision to mean that officers and other employees must receive 25 percent pay increases.
The figures triggered accusations that the city had inflated the numbers to stoke fear and provide certain council members a pretext to vote down the agreement, called a consent decree.
Gupta’s letter rebutted the conclusions drawn by Blume, arguing that the department had always made it clear that salary increases could come over time and that the agreement itself does not specify any particular percentage.
“This is Mike Brown’s legacy,” said his father, Mike Brown Sr. The unarmed teen was shot six times by former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. His dead body lay on the pavement for several hours as images of the tragedy spread across social media. The conflicting details surrounding Brown’s shooting spawned nationwide protests and publicized a longstanding history of racial profiling and civil rights violations brought on by the city’s police department.
In a statement, the DOJ’s Civil Right’s Division leader called the vote “an important step towards guaranteeing all of its citizens the protections of our Constitution.”