LDF is Hopeful the Decree Will Be Implemented Effectively, Faithfully and Expeditiously to Heal the Ferguson Community, Subject to a Fairness Hearing

 

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is pleased to learn that the Ferguson City Council has voted to approve the proposed consent decree negotiated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the Ferguson Police Department’s and the Ferguson municipal court’s unlawful and discriminatory practices. LDF is hopeful that the decree will be implemented effectively, faithfully and expeditiously, subject to a fairness hearing to assess the reasonableness of the decree. The city council’s approval of the consent decree alleviates the burden of protracted litigation with the DOJ and will enable residents to begin the process of healing from the deep and longstanding injury inflicted by racially-biased policing and predatory municipal court practices that disproportionately harmed the city’s Black residents.

The DOJ and Ferguson city officials will file the agreement in a federal court, which may consider the terms of the consent decree during a fairness hearing, allowing residents to raise any concerns about the sufficiency of the decree. LDF strongly urges both parties to request a fairness hearing to allow community members the opportunity to press any concerns about the consent decree, which will most deeply impact residents. 

“After weeks of delay and the filing of a lawsuit by the DOJ, the Ferguson City Council finally has come to the correct decision of approving the negotiated consent decree,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “The council’s initial reneging on the consent decree drew DOJ resources away from other costly battles, and exacerbated the frustrations of the Ferguson community that has already endured so much. We hope that the implementation of this decree will redress the racially-biased policing practices and discriminatory court practices that are epidemic in Ferguson. Most especially, we hope the Ferguson community will have an opportunity to be heard before a federal judge in a fairness hearing, which we believe is necessary to ensure meaningful community input.”

LDF believes that the Ferguson consent decree has many promising provisions. Nevertheless, because of Ferguson city officials’ documented history of violating federal, state, and local laws in the administration of its justice system, the selection of the team of monitors who will supervise the completion of each provision of the consent decree is crucial. The monitors must have the trust of the Ferguson community, and the community should be involved in their selection.

Additionally, there must be a thorough examination of the consent decree provisions concerning:

  • police stops–to ensure that they are based on specific and reliable suspect descriptions that include not only race, age, and gender, but other identifying characteristics and information;
  • protests and demonstrations–to prohibit the use of military-style equipment and weapons by law enforcement agencies who assist the Ferguson Police Department with managing protests;
  • body-worn and in-car camera programs–to ensure that they are not used as surveillance for constitutionally protected activities, such as protests;
  • the need for a school resource officer (SRO) program–to ensure, among other protections, that SROs do not use body-worn cameras in a school setting in violation of privacy rights of students;
  • municipal court reform–to ensure that the proposed ability-to-pay system, which requires judges to assess fines based on a person’s financial capacity, is extended to individuals who participate in community service—and that the rate at which community service hours are calculated is based on a person’s ability to pay; and
  • termination of the consent decree–which should happen no less than five consecutive years after Ferguson has been in full and effective compliance with the decree’s terms.

The United States is undeniably in a national policing crisis. LDF has responded by launching its Policing Reform Campaign, which seeks to promote unbiased and responsible policing policies and practices, such as those outlined above, at the national, state and local levels. Read more about LDF’s campaign here

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.