Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Federal Judge Approves Agreement between Ferguson, Justice Department

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Federal Judge Approves Agreement between Ferguson, Justice Department

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * An agreement between the Justice Department and Ferguson is a fair, adequate and reasonable plan to address allegations that the city's police department and court had routinely violated constitutional rights, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled Tuesday.

"This is in the best interest of everyone," Perry said, as she approved the proposal, called a consent decree.

Perry's comments came at the end of a five-hour hearing where lawyers representing both sides said they were confident they could prevail in a lawsuit. The settlement, however, avoids what might have been years of costly litigation and allows the beleaguered city to move past the painful events of the past 20 months.

But those sentiments weren't the main focus of the hearing, which was held to solicit comments from the people who would be most affected by reforms to Ferguson's police and court.

In all, 32 people spoke.

Some said the agreement did not go far enough, arguing that city leaders could not be expected to fix problems that they had created or to be trustworthy after misleading the public about the costs of the decree.

"They have been dangerously deceptive," said Ferguson resident Felicia Pulliam.

Others argued the decree placed too great of a financial burden on the city, addressed issues beyond the scope of the allegations and made Ferguson a scapegoat for the region's problems.

"The consent decree before you is nothing more than a ransom letter," said Paul Berry III, a Bridgeton resident who is seeking the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in the August primary.

Berry said that Ferguson lacked the resources to defend itself against the Justice Department.

In December 2013, more than eight months before protests erupted after a Ferguson officer fatally shot Michael Brown, Berry urged the Justice Department in a letter to look into problems with the region's municipal courts. …

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