About a month after unilaterally changing a deal negotiated with the Department of Justice, the town of Ferguson, Mo., has voted to accept the original deal in the face of ongoing protests and a civil rights lawsuit.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the city council unanimously approved an agreement with the federal agency on Tuesday to reform its police and courts, this time without any last minute changes.
Protesters, who have been demonstrating at city council meetings for six weeks, cheered the vote and the Post-Dispatch reports Mayor James Knowles III and Michael Brown Sr. shared a hug. Brown's son, also named Michael Brown, is the teenager whose shooting death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson prompted the investigation into the city's law enforcement.
“This is Mike Brown’s legacy,” said Brown Sr., according to the Post-Dispatch.
The reform agreement looked shaky for a while after the city added conditions to it during a Feb. 9 meeting. Most of those conditions revolved around preventing required raises for city employees, as well as invalidating the deal in the case of an external agency taking over policing in the town.
Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ's civil rights division, made it clear at the time those changes were not acceptable and promptly sued the town over its decision. But in recent weeks, she also tried to assuage the council, sending a March 4 letter suggesting the costs of the deal would not be as high as the town originally estimated.
The city's finance director originally estimated the agreement would cost as much as $3.7 million in its first year. But that estimate apparently assumed an immediate 25% pay increase for police, which Gupta said was not necessary. The new estimate is no more than $1.5 million the first year and less every year after that.
The city is still debating the possibility of raising taxes to pay for the increases, but for now the deal is in place. How it changes Ferguson remains to be seen.