Undoubtedly you have heard about some of the madness, or even been to the Community Policing Meeting or last night’s City Council meeting. Yes, the Crazies are back in force, with new slogans, bigger and better banners and a fresh dose of irrational anger. And we know that a lot of residents are growing increasingly frustrated, and some even reaching a breaking point. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE STAND FIRM!! We cannot let the Crazies force the nice citizens of Ferguson to leave.
IT’S WHAT THE CRAZIES WANT: Their avowed goal is to force Ferguson off the map, so they can claim some kind of victory in their lives. They are purposely using intimidation as a tactic to frighten residents and make them think about moving. If we let them do it, if we all decide to move, they will have won. Ferguson will be just a shell of itself in another five years. St. Louis would have lost one of its nicer, more diverse communities and we would have lost our very nice town. And yes, the causes of diversity and social justice will have suffered setbacks. DON’T LET THEM WIN – DON’T LET THEM DRIVE YOU OUT.
THE CRAZIES VIEW THEMSELVES AS PART OF THE DOJ NEGOTIATING TEAM: The Crazies very much want us to sign the proposed DOJ Consent Decree as is, because it will bankrupt us and force us off the map. Part of their strategy is to continue to loudly protest and hopefully cause a confrontation – they WANT videos of police hauling them out of City Council meetings, it will put additional public pressure on Ferguson. So, unfortunately, we will have the Crazies with us for a while, BUT NOT ALL THAT LONG.
FERGUSON AND THE DOJ WILL REACH A SETTLEMENT: Once all of the posturing is done, the DOJ and Ferguson aren’t that far from an agreement – Ferguson has agreed to, wants to and is doing most of the reforms in the Consent Decree. The “poison pill” (which could cause the city to dissolve) gets talked about a lot, but it’s a clarification of language. The only really big issue is the level of police raises, and it’s hard to believe the DOJ would take this all the way to trial over this one issue. And we are getting ready to kick off the next phase of Ferguson Truth – “Ask everything you wanted to know about the DOJ report on Ferguson.” More to come on the project, do check back...
FEEL FREE TO AVOID THE CRAZIES: Some of us have been trying to be at all the meetings to show support, but if you have a low tolerance for foolishness, stay away. Ferguson is going to make it through these next few months, and there is no point subjecting yourselves to the pain when it really won’t do anything to change the situation. If you don’t feel like it, you have a free pass to skip the next few meetings. The council knows whom it represents.
OR PRETEND YOU ARE AT THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW: If you do go, just pretend you are at the Jerry Springer show. Gawk at the spectacle, chuckle at the clowns. Debate with your wife the most outrageous comments, or your favorite chant. Remember, some people pay for entertainment like this – we get it free. Sure, if you watch Jerry Springer or Professional Wrestling, it might seem like Old Hat. But for a lot of us, this is as up close and personal as we have ever gotten to the Vaudeville stage.
HELP PASS THE TAX INCREASE: This, more than anything else, is how to stick it to the Crazies – make sure our city has the money it needs to keep providing the quality of life we enjoy.
STAND FIRM: We aren’t going anywhere, and we hope you aren’t either. We love our diverse neighbors, our beautiful houses (reasonably priced), our nice little entertainment district. We even love being part of history. Yes, it’s going to be Crazy for a while longer, but soon, very soon, the madness will pass and we will still have our lovely City. Don’t let them take our City from us.
Ferguson continues to move forward to heal and insure Constitutional Policing. The following INITIATIVES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS were presented by Ferguson City Manager De'Carlon Seewood at our recent Neighborhood Policing steering committee meeting.
As you probably know by now, the Ferguson City Council did a masterful job of navigating the different pressures and concerns to arrive at a thoughtful, practical response to the Department of Justice. There is already a firestorm of commentary from the more virulent protesters, which is a shame. But please do not lose sight of everything the Council did:
Yes, the Council did push back on some key points:
Deadlines: The DOJ wanted Ferguson to commit to dozens of 60 and 90 day deadlines, which the City had no chance of meeting (we still don’t even have a Police Chief). Asking the DOJ to extend those deadlines, many to six months, will give us a chance of actually meeting the agreement we sign. This shouldn’t be objectionable to anyone that cares about a better Ferguson – we rightfully want to sign a deal that we can live up to.
Police Raises: To our knowledge the DOJ has never inserted language in any other consent decree that mandates that police salaries must be competitive with the highest paying municipalities in the area. This one clause adds hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs to the consent decree. While we do support raising police salaries in Ferguson, asking the DOJ to remove this clause won’t impact our move to community policing and also greatly reduces the cost of compliance.
The Poison Pill: This demand is something that has never been included in any other consent decree with any other city, but which has extreme ramifications for Ferguson. To summarize, if the City can’t raise the money needed to pay for the settlement and has to shut down our police department, Ferguson would have to dissolve itself before the County Police would take over. Ferguson had community policing in place before 2011, and is already moving back to this approach. However the DOJ wants to try an experiment – hiring more officers, and having the officers spend about 20% of their time doing community relations work. These are worthy goals, but also require a significant increase in spending on police. Ferguson is happy to try the experiment, but if the residents decide they can’t continue to fund this increased cost we need to be able to close our police department and contract with St. Louis County WITHOUT being forced to first dissolve the City. The DOJ has stated over and over again that it was not their intent to force Ferguson – thankfully, our council called them on the poison pill.
Again, the Ferguson City Council did a wonderful job of approving the consent decree with a few common sense changes, changes the DOJ should have no problems with if the goal really is a better Ferguson. We are asking everyone to send their thanks to the City Council, to let them know we appreciate the hard work they put into moving our city forward. Their email addresses and the city phone number are below.
City of Ferguson: (314) 521-7721
Ella Jones firstname.lastname@example.org,
Mark Byrne email@example.com,
Dwayne James firstname.lastname@example.org,
Wesley Bell email@example.com,
Keith Kallstrom firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor James Knowles email@example.com
Dear Mayor Knowles and Council
Attached is a very detailed analysis (Download File) by area pastor Daryl Meese, comparing the Ferguson Consent Decree to Cleveland and several other Consent Decrees. The report confirms what we all are realizing - Ferguson is being asked to do far, far more than any other city, and as importantly, in a much shorter time frame. Given the extensive scope of the agreement, the very high projections based on our understanding of the terms, and the inexperience of both Ferguson and the DOJ on something this broad, we ask that the City Council respectfully declines to pass this resolution on second reading, and does not at this time agree to enter into this consent decree.
Surely the DOI was surprised by the initial cost calculation as well, and is open to re-visiting and clarifying language. This situation is a first for Ferguson, but it is also a first for the DOJ - they have never tried to negotiate anything this extensive, and they are learning as they are going. Now that we have had a chance to see the proposal, we are able to do the side by side analysis - information that wasn't available to the DOJ or Ferguson. Now that the agreement has been priced out, surely the DOJ is open to continuing the conversation, to clarify language and tighten terms, and to talk through realistic timelines.
Not voting Yes doesn't mean we aren't committed to moving forward as a City. It's simply a recognition that we are learning as we go along, that we as a City and a nation have to get this right - we have to make sure Ferguson IS able to become an example for the rest of our Country. Again, we ask you to not pass the resolution, and instead allow us to continue our conversations as a City and with the Department of Justice. We have a roadmap now - give us a chance for true input on how to make it even better,
Ferguson City Council MUST vote NO on decree!
It’s hard to describe how disheartening the proposed DOJ consent decree is for the people of Ferguson. The Department of Justice has been lying. Lying to the United States, lying to the City of Ferguson, even lying to the protest community of Ferguson.
Yes, “lying” is a very strong word. But after a year of the DOJ publicly stating it wasn’t trying to destroy Ferguson, it is demanding the City sign a consent decree that can only result in the City eventually having to disincorporate, to dissolve itself.
A small but vocal part of the social justice movement has wanted Ferguson to essentially be wiped off the map, as a warning to the rest of the United States and as a trophy for the movement. The DOJ has stated over and over again that this wasn’t their goal. Representatives from the DOJ visited our city numerous times to tell residents that the DOJ wanted Ferguson to live, wanted its police force to continue. We lost track of the warm, reassuring words offered by the DOJ to let us know that everything would work out.
Most of these conversations eventually got around to costs. What would happen if the cost of making the DOJ’s proposed changes were more than the City could afford? Would it force us to dissolve our police force? Their answer always began with an assurance that the DOJ knows Ferguson is a small town and that it wasn’t out to bankrupt anyone. Then they would add “But ultimately, it’s up to the people of Ferguson to decide what kind of police force they want to have, and if the people of Ferguson decide they are better off dissolving their police force, that’s your right”.
This, really, has been the background message from the DOJ – if correcting our police department was too expensive, the City could dissolve the department and contract with St. Louis County for policing. The DOJ particularly pushed this with the Ferguson protest community, suggesting that the protesters’ could end the policing while keeping the city.
Now the DOJ’s proposed settlement has been released, and none of the reassurances were true. The settlement will cost the City more than $1.3 million in the first year alone, including $350,000 a year in monitoring costs. It will require hiring more police officers and mandate that all officers spend a significant amount of time in non-policing community activities. It will require expensive, yearly, “retraining” of every police officer, for years to come. Beyond the cost, it will substantially change policing in Ferguson, making it harder for police to do their jobs and even harder for officers to ensure their own safety.
And worst of all, it says that if the City of Ferguson were to contract with St. Louis County Police, the County Police would have to abide by all of the terms of the agreement. The County would have to agree that all officers potentially patrolling Ferguson would receive the constant retraining and spend time on non-policing duties while being closely monitored. Officers would be required to give up whole categories of policing (and be trained to police in a different way) and put themselves and our community at increased risk. The County Police Department would have to agree to the very terms that forced the Ferguson Police Department out of existence.
It’s not going to happen. St. Louis County, without the gun of a DOJ lawsuit to its head, will never agree to the egregious terms and costs that the DOJ is trying to force on Ferguson - it won’t sign on for the successor liability and won’t force the costs onto the rest of the County. Why would it.
There is only one way for the County to take over policing without being bound by the agreement Ferguson signed. The City of Ferguson will have to vote to dissolve itself. Once Ferguson was no longer a legal entity we go back to being unincorporated St. Louis County and the County Police would be able to step in without being bound by the DOJ agreement.
Again, it’s hard to describe how dispiriting this is to the residents of Ferguson. After all the reassurances, the Department of Justice is demanding the City sign its own death certificate. Think we are wrong? Ask the DOJ if there is any other way for St. Louis County to take over the policing without having liability for the agreement. It’s a sad day in Ferguson, and should be a sad day everywhere in the United States. The DOJ seems to have decided that our friendly little diverse city needs to be sacrificed in the name of social justice.
Help Ferguson Get the Truth Out
Beginning with Eric Holder announcing the Department of Justice’s “searing” report, the DOJ has selectively collected and presented information to paint Ferguson as racist and abusive. Ferguson Truth was formed to push for transparency and truth from the Department of Justice, to counteract this distorted narrative that the DOJ created.