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.