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Ferguson seeks changes to DOJ agreement

Posted: 10:03 AM, Feb 10, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-10 15:03:15Z

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The Ferguson City Council agreed Tuesday to most proposals in a consent agreement with the Justice Department that would reform the city's courts and policing systems, but only after a series of changes aimed at limiting the cost.

The changes announced Tuesday before a packed crowd of about 300 at the Ferguson Community Center were met with anger by many who supported the original agreement. Several protesters began chanting, "No justice, no peace," and other refrains common during protests in the St. Louis suburb after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014.

The consent agreement had been reached following seven months of negotiations, but a city analysis over the past few days determined the city's cost would be up to $3.7 million for the first year alone. That prompted concern from some residents and city officials that it would bankrupt Ferguson.

Councilman Wesley Bell, who proposed the changes, said he was confident the Department of Justice would agree.

"I don't think there's anything unreasonable," Bell said.

Messages left late Tuesday with the Department of Justice were not immediately returned.

The biggest change removes a Justice Department requirement that police salaries be raised. City officials believed meeting that provision would also require fire department salaries to rise, potentially costing $1 million annually.

The amended agreement was announced and approved at the end of an often-boisterous meeting moved to the Ferguson Community Center because of the crowd size. The vast majority of speakers supported the original agreement.

Karl Tricamo, 32, shouted out as the council approved the amended deal, wondering why it wasn't announced until the end of the meeting.

"I don't think the DOJ is going to go for this," he said.

Ferguson has been under scrutiny since the fatal police shooting of Brown, whose father stood quietly at the back of the meeting. The black, unarmed 18-year-old was fatally shot Aug. 9, 2014, by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation on a street. Wilson, who later resigned, was cleared of wrongdoing by both a St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department.