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Ferguson city council want changes to police reform plan
February 9, 2016 / 3:12 PM / 2 years ago

Ferguson city council want changes to police reform plan

FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - The Ferguson, Missouri city council voted on Tuesday to approve an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the city’s police department after the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, but with changes that must still get federal approval.

A partially burned American flag lies on the street near the spot where Michael Brown was killed before an event to mark the one-year anniversary of the his death in Ferguson, Missouri, August 9, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

In a unanimous vote, the council for the St. Louis suburb agreed with the basic terms of the agreement, which includes requiring the police department to give officers bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system.

The department would need to ensure that police stop, search and arrest practices do not discriminate on the basis of race or other factors protected under law. The settlement also requires the city to change its municipal code, including sections that impose prison time for failure to pay certain fines.

But at a crowded public meeting, the council balked at certain requirements, including pay levels for police officers and staffing levels at the jail. The council also asked that the agreement not apply to outside agencies if the city outsourced any police work.

The council also wanted additional time to comply with the agreement - an additional 180 days on top of the 90 already granted.

“This is a reflection of trying to make this work for everybody’s concerns,” said Mayor James Knowles III.

The fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, exposed tension between the city government and the largely black community. Ferguson erupted into violent protests in 2014 after a grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

It was one of a series of killings of black men, mostly by white police officers, that set off a nationwide debate about the use of police force, especially against minorities.

A sharply critical report by the Justice Department last year documented discriminatory actions by Ferguson police and the municipal court system, especially against blacks.

A representative for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment.

Last week, residents attended two city council meetings to weigh in on the agreement, and had another chance to voice their opinion on Tuesday ahead of the vote.

Also on Tuesday, a St. Louis County jury acquitted local pastor and activist Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of a charge of failing to comply with a police order during a September 2014 protest against the Brown shooting.

Reporting by Sue Britt in Ferguson, Ben Klayman in Detroit, and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Macfie

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