The Justice Department has recommended sweeping changes to the Ferguson criminal justice system. According to The Guardian, the 131-page report from the Department of Justice includes recommendations such as making Ferguson police wear body cameras and record encounters, and stopping Ferguson courts from holding people arrested on a municipal warrant for more than 12 hours. The Justice Department also recommends that police stop targeting Black residents with fines as a way of funding the city.
“Any revenue generated by law enforcement actions will be incidental to the public safety purpose,” the agreement said.
The agreement was inspired by a Justice Department investigation of the Ferguson criminal justice system. The DOJ decided to investigate Ferguson in the wake of widespread protests in 2014 after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown.
According to The Guardian, the DOJ investigation found Black Ferguson residents were being hit with harsh fines for minor infractions such as jaywalking or “crossing at right angles.”
The DOJ report said the fines imposed “unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African-American individuals, and run counter to public safety.”
The Guardian said the DOJ investigation found other instances of racially biased policing. Ferguson is 67 percent Black, but Blacks accounted for 93 percent of arrests and 85 percent of traffic stops. However, even though Black drivers were more likely to be stopped, statistics found that Blacks were 25 percent less likely to be found in possession of drugs or stolen goods. In addition, nine out of 10 cases of police use of force were against Black residents.
The proposal also recommends that Ferguson police officers undergo training on how to deescalate encounters with the public.
“All FPD officers and employees must have an unwavering commitment to protecting human life,” said the agreement.
Other recommendations include raising officers’ salaries, to make them competitive with other local departments, and disciplining officers who fail to report misconduct.
The proposal has been made available to the public and will be reviewed by the Ferguson City Council, who will vote on it next month. According to The Huffington Post, the court-enforceable agreement will be monitored by an independent observer who will help ensure the city is living up to the agreement over the next five years.
Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said the recommendations could serve as a model for other cities.
“In many respects, this Agreement simply encapsulates the elements that any small- to medium size police department can and should put in place to ensure that its officers conduct themselves in a manner that is constitutional and effective, and that builds trust and genuine partnerships in diverse communities,” Gupta wrote.