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Watchdog says Ferguson behind on police, court changes

July 3, 2019
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. The city of Ferguson needs to make more progress on implementing the 2016 consent decree, federal officials and an independent monitor told a federal judge Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri city of Ferguson needs to make more progress on police and court changes to comply with a consent decree spurred by the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, federal officials and an independent monitor told a federal judge Tuesday.

Independent monitor Natashia Tidwell, a Boston attorney, told U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry that the city is behind on many of its goals for the year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Instead of pushing those benchmarks to next year, Tidwell said “more needs to be done.”

The shooting death of 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson officer in August 2014 put the St. Louis suburb under Justice Department scrutiny. While the officer, Darren Wilson, was cleared of wrongdoing and resigned in November 2014, a Justice Department investigation raised serious concerns about the way black residents are treated in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of about 20,000 people, about two-thirds of whom are black.

A consent agreement reached in 2016 requires significant changes that include municipal court reforms, community policing efforts, hiring more minority officers and improved policies in areas such as use of body cameras and search and seizure practices.

Tidwell said officials are largely done developing police and court policies, but she said Ferguson needs to do more to enact them.

She also said the city is “long overdue” to hire a consent decree coordinator and needs to do a staffing study, implement neighborhood policing plans, and collect data on use of police force.

Justice Department attorney Amy Senier said Ferguson has made progress to fill a civilian review board. But she raised concerns about delays in making police salaries more competitive and said the city needs to hire an outside consultant to gather police data.

City attorney Apollo Carey said Ferguson has struggled with high turnover and hiring but will prioritize hiring a consent decree coordinator and data consultant by the next status hearing.

The judge said there’s “a lot that needs to be done” but that Ferguson has made progress. Perry added that she hopes the city is preparing for possible protests on the five-year anniversary of Brown’s death and hopes there will be “appropriate policing.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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