Ferguson residents worried about cost of mandated changes to police

FERGUSON, Mo. - Many Ferguson residents expressed concern Tuesday that a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice could financially ruin the St.

See Full Article

Louis suburb where a police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.

About 100 people crammed into the tiny Ferguson City Hall chambers for the first public meeting on a proposal that seeks to avert a civil rights lawsuit against the city. An equal number of residents were turned away due to space limitations. The City Council could approve the agreement as early as Feb. 9.

The city has been under federal scrutiny since the August 2014 shooting of Brown, who was black and unarmed, by white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. The killing led to protests and promoted a wave of national scrutiny about police use of force and law enforcement's interactions with minorities.

The Justice Department cleared Wilson in the shooting, but issued a report in March criticizing the city's police force and a municipal court system that made money on the backs of the poor and minorities.

Residents who spoke at Tuesday's hearing were about evenly split on whether the city should go along with the agreement, which includes overhauling police policies, training and practices. Cost concerns were a common refrain among opponents.

The cost of implementing the Justice Department-mandated changes would be significant - preliminary estimates are at least $500,000, Mayor James Knowles said. The city already faces a $2.8 million deficit in part to legal fees, lost sales tax revenue from businesses damaged in protests that followed Brown's death, overtime costs for officers handling the protests, and lost revenue from municipal court changes already implemented.

Knowles said in an interview that the city has already made cuts to pay and benefits for all employees. Ferguson voters will consider two tax increases in April - one imposing an economic development sales tax, the other a property tax increase that would cost about $76 annually for a home worth $100,000. If voters turn down the tax increases, the city will have to make even deeper cuts, he said.

"Obviously if we agree to this we're going to have to find some way to fund it," Knowles said.

The city is also seeking grants to help fund improvements to the police force.

Many of those opposing the consent agreement were white. Supporters were split between blacks and whites.

Tom Sansevere, who is white, said the Justice Department should help pay for improvements.

"Don't put it on the backs of the people that really had nothing to do with any problems caused in the city of Ferguson. The residents here didn't do this, but we're going to pay for it," Sansevere said.

Blake Ashby, who is white, believes the agreement would lead to dissolution of Ferguson.

"If you want to see Ferguson wiped off the map, sign this consent decree," Ashby said.

Adrian Shropshire, who is black, urged the council to approve the deal.

"What the DOJ has presented are not punitive demands, they're constitutional demands," Shropshire said. "There's so much in this consent decree we need so badly."

In its March report, the Justice Department found officers routinely used excessive force, issued petty citations and made baseless traffic stops in Ferguson, where about two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black but nearly all police officers are white.

Within days of the report, Ferguson's police chief, municipal judge and city manager resigned.

The agreement envisions a top-to-bottom reshaping of basic policing practices - how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations. Ferguson officials also agreed to rewrite their municipal code to restrict the use of fines and jail time for petty violations.

Also, officers and jail workers would be required to wear body-worn cameras and microphones within 180 days of the agreement's implementation. Cameras would be activated for all traffic stops, arrest, searches and encounters with people believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Bombing at Pakistan market kills 22, dozens wounded

    World News CBC News
    A bomb exploded Saturday in a market in a northwest tribal region that borders Afghanistan, killing 22 people and wounding at least 50, officials said. Dr. Sabir Hussain at the main hospital in Parachinar, the capital of Pakistan's Kurram tribal region, said two wounded victims died during treatment, raising the death toll. Source
  • More survivors pulled from rubble of Italian hotel, all 4 children survived

    World News CBC News
    Emergency crews pulled out four more survivors from the rubble of a hotel crushed by an avalanche and were searching Saturday for more as family members awaited word if their relatives were among the lucky ones to get out. Source
  • Fiery bus crash kills 16 students in Italy

    World News CBC News
    A bus carrying Hungarian school students home from a skiing trip to France slammed into a highway barrier in northern Italy and caught fire, killing at least 16 people, police said Saturday. Thirty-nine people reportedly survived, though some were seriously injured. Source
  • Liberal peacekeeping decision paused because of uncertainty around Trump

    Canada News CBC News
    Much to the frustration of Canada's allies at the United Nations, the Trudeau government postponed the delivery of its long-anticipated peacekeeping plan last month principally because it needed a better read on what the Trump administration expects of Canada in terms of international defence and security. Source
  • Solidarity sisters! Why Canadians are joining the Women's March on Washington

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadian women are donning their "pussyhats" and heading south in buses and cars to take part in the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, which is expected to draw about 200,000 protesters who disavow the policies and presidency of Donald Trump. Source
  • Like Trump, Kevin O'Leary only needs voters to take him seriously: Aaron Wherry

    Canada News CBC News
    Perhaps all prime ministers end up becoming television characters, but Kevin O'Leary is the first TV character to run for prime minister. His background is in business but his fame is based on his work as the tough-talking, unforgiving judge on Dragons' Den and Shark Tank and as a business commentator. Source
  • Mud-slinging and Mexican flags define decade-long battle over Trump's Scottish golf course

    World News CBC News
    Strange forces seem to be at work along the remote Scottish coastline just north of Aberdeen. It's a place of wild beauty, where the sand dunes rise to great heights. If it weren't for the bone-chilling cold blowing in with the spray off the North Sea, parts of it could be mistaken for the Sahara or Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter. Source
  • Trump delights supporters, alarms trading partners with inaugural speech: Chris Hall

    World News CBC News
    Donald Trump, we're told, wrote Friday's inaugural speech on his own, and there's little reason to doubt that. It was, for the most part, a rehash of the themes he's set out ever since he got into the race to be president back in 2015. Source
  • British foreign secretary 'positive and optimistic' on Trump

    World News CTV News
    Promises, pomp, protests as Donald Trump sworn in Latest updates: Trump returns to White House after celebrations Source
  • 16 killed in fiery bus crash on Italian highway

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Italian police say 16 people died when a bus carrying Hungarian school students returning home from France crashed into the side of a highway near Verona. Thirty-nine people survived. Police commander Geralomo Lacquanita said the bus crashed and burst into flames just before midnight. Source