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
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.