The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the city of Ferguson, Mo., for unjust policing that violates the civil and constitutional rights of citizens, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday.
The lawsuit came one day after the Ferguson City Council voted to change a proposed consent decree to reform the police and courts. The council said the package, which had been negotiated between the DOJ and city officials, cost too much.
In a news conference, Lynch said the DOJ was sensitive to the city’s cost concerns throughout the months-long negotiation. She also said, “There is no price for constitutional policing.”
Lynch was adamant that the council’s move to amend the agreement constituted a rejection.
“A few weeks ago, the Department of Justice and Ferguson’s own negotiators came to an agreement that was both fair and cost-effective — and that would provide all the residents of Ferguson the constitutional and effective policing and court practices guaranteed to all Americans. As agreed, it was presented to the Ferguson City Council for approval or rejection. And last night, the city council rejected the consent decree approved by their own negotiators. Their decision leaves us no further choice.”
She also said she was disappointed that Ferguson had not approved the deal, as the goal of the negotiation was to avoid litigation.
A year after the DOJ announced the findings of its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, Lynch said the people of Ferguson should not have to wait any longer for “their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.” She said the violations by the police and courts in Ferguson “were not only egregious — they were routine.”
The lawsuit alleges a “pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws,” Lynch said. “We intend to aggressively prosecute this case and I have no doubt that we will prevail.”