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Ferguson, Justice Department reach agreement on overhaul of policing practices

The city of Ferguson, Missouri, announced on Wednesday a proposed deal with the Justice Department on sweeping changes to its policing protocols, 16 months after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer.

Ferguson officials released the 127-page consent decree following seven months of negotiations with the federal agency. The proposed overhaul includes recommendations for the “training, supervision, and direction necessary to police effectively and in a manner that builds community trust and improves officer safety and morale.”

The agreement calls for the city’s police department to review its use-of-force and training policies under the supervision of an appointed, independent monitor. And, within 180 days, all patrol officers, patrol supervisors, jail personnel, among others, are required to wear body cameras and microphones; the department’s vehicles should be outfitted with the same equipment.

Cameras are required to be activated for “all investigatory stops; all arrests; all searches,” the agreement said. Additionally, the city also agreed to reform its municipal code, including re-evaluating the appropriate penalties for violations.

With the same 180-day time frame, police officers are expected to engage with community groups and members “who previously have not had strong or positive relationships” with the department.

A city council vote is scheduled for Feb. 9, after two weeks for public input. Wednesday’s agreement could mean the city avoids a civil rights lawsuit brought by federal officials.

The Justice Department released a report in March, concluding Ferguson’s police officers routinely engaged in misconduct, racial bias and a disregard for the community. The misconduct included patterns of excessive force and a racial disparity in traffic stops and citations.

Although officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for Brown’s death, the fatal shooting sparked an intense, public scrutiny of Ferguson and other police departments across the country.

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