The city council of Ferguson, Missouri has agreed to adopt a settlement with the Justice Department to overhaul the courts and police force of the city after attempts at revising the deal were met with a federal lawsuit.
During a city council meeting on March 15, members voted 6 to 0 in favor of adopting the plan in order to avoid having to face the federal government in a long and costly court battle.
The city now has to begin the process of reforming its criminal justice system, which has been heavily criticized since the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown Jr. by a white officer from the Ferguson police in 2014.
Among those who voted to approve the Justice Department's deal were elected officials from the St. Louis suburb where Brown Jr. was fatally injured.
The victim's father was also in attendance but refused to speak publicly. He shook hands with Mayor James Knowles III and other members of the city council following the vote.
Councilman Wesley Bell pointed out that Ferguson has served as the "emotional ground zero" of the issue. He said that the city can now show the world what change looks like.
After several months of negotiations, the city government of Ferguson and the Justice Department were able to reach a tentative agreement.
However, the council decided to reject the settlement in February because of concerns over the expenses it would place on the city. This caused the DOJ to file a federal lawsuit against Ferguson the following day.
Despite the city council's adoption of the deal, the Justice Department's lawsuit remains in court because the preliminary agreement between the two sides still has to be approved by a federal judge.
The DOJ's Civil Rights Division chief Vanita Gupta commended the city council's vote, stating that Ferguson has taken an important step toward ensuring that all of its citizens are protected under the U.S. Constitution
Gupta assured Ferguson that it will not be made to give its police officers pay raises. This provision in the settlement is what the council believed might cause the city to go bankrupt.
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