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DOJ Sues Ferguson After Mo. City Rejects Police Overhaul Deal


Let's turn to Ferguson, a Missouri town now facing a big civil rights lawsuit. The Justice Department filed the suit after Ferguson officials rejected a deal to settle complaints following the death of Michael Brown. St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum has more.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: F. Willis Johnson was one of several hundred people who crammed into the Ferguson Community Center for Tuesday's city council meeting. He is a pastor at a Ferguson church who wanted to see how the council would vote on an agreement instituting big changes to the city's police and courts. When he left the meeting, Johnson was bewildered that the council attached conditions to accepting the deal. The conditions included rejecting higher police salaries. Johnson says Ferguson is making a grave mistake picking a fight with the Department of Justice.

F. WILLIS JOHNSON: For them to think anything other that this would happen speaks to their naivety and their malcontent for the people in this community.

ROSENBAUM: The Justice Department responded by filing a lawsuit against Ferguson. And while the city's leaders declined comment after the suit was announced, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III had told reporters earlier that the conditions were necessary to save the city from financial ruin.


JAMES KNOWLES III: Agreeing to something that you don't have the money in the bank to - I mean, this isn't possible for us to meet.

ROSENBAUM: Still, fighting the federal government could cost Ferguson millions, especially if it loses. And attorney Thomas Harvey, who is with the group that promotes police reform, says the spotlight on Ferguson is distracting attention from similar problems in other St. Louis County cities.

THOMAS HARVEY: I think this continues to give the other cities in this region cover because they can still say, look at Ferguson, look at this one example. And it keeps the heat off all of the things that they have been doing.

ROSENBAUM: Although Ferguson is resisting part of the Justice Department's deal, it is starting to implement other aspects, such as giving officers body cameras and more training. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.