A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement to overhaul the local police department in Ferguson, Mo. and address racially biased policing that often violated the rights of Black residents in the St. Louis suburb.
The approval came down from U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry after several hours of a public hearing in St. Louis to address the reforms reached by the Justice Department and the city in March. Initially, the Justice Department sued Ferguson after they refused to approve reforms in February, citing concerns over the cost bankrupting the city.
An investigation brought forth by the Justice Department after the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown by a White police officer in August 2014 found a pattern of racial biased policing and court practices that led to debtors’ prisons — Black people made up 85 percent of traffic stops and received 90 percent of tickets. Officers often arrested and held residents at the expense of individuals in order to increase revenue for the city.
Perry said the settlement is a “reasonable resolution” that avoids years of an extensive court battle. “I think it’s in everyone’s best interest, and I think it’s in the interest of justice,” she said.
The settlement calls for the hiring of a monitor; diversity training for police; the purchase of software and hiring of staff to analyze records on arrests, use of force and other police matters; and the outfitting of all officers and jail workers with body cameras.
Mayor James Knowles III told Perry that the city believes the agreement “is an important step in bringing this community together and moving us forward.”
The city is making strides to diversify its majority White police force. Earlier this month, Ferguson announced that Delrish Moss, a 32-year veteran of the Miami Police Department, would take over as the new police chief in the embattled city. Moss, who is Black, says his agenda is to hire more women and people of color.
“The police department should be much more reflective of the community it serves. … I certainly plan to hire more people of color, more women,” Moss said. “I’d like to hire people from Ferguson who are actually committed to what happens there.”