Posted by: JanF | February 11, 2016

Attorney General Lynch: “The residents of Ferguson have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer”

Our next president will likely get to choose three, perhaps four, people to sit on the Supreme Court. Those women and men are the ultimate arbiters of our laws and appointing people with integrity, and who are not warped by partisan ideology, is one of the most important tasks of the executive branch.

But justice is more than just who sits on the Supreme Court – it is the Justice Department and the power to prosecute those who willfully flout our laws and trample the civil rights of our citizens.

Yesterday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Justice Department  has filed a lawsuit against Ferguson Missouri. The City of Ferguson had agreed to modify their law enforcement practices after negotiations; abruptly, the city council, apparently under pressure from the county, voted down the agreement.

Attorney General Lynch:
AGLynchFerguson

Video on CSPAN: http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?404586-1/attorney-general-loretta-lynch-news-conference-ferguson-lawsuit

 

Today, the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.  We intend to aggressively prosecute this case and I have no doubt that we will prevail.

The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.  They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day.  They have waited nearly a year for their municipal courts to commit to basic, reasonable rules and standards.  But as our report made clear, the residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades.  They have waited decades for justice.  They should not be forced to wait any longer.

Full text of opening statement is below.

 

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.  I am joined by Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.

Nearly a year ago, the Department of Justice released our findings in an investigation of the Police Department of Ferguson, Missouri.  Our investigation uncovered a community in distress, in which residents felt alienated from their own police force.  The Ferguson Police Department’s violations were expansive and deliberate.  They violated the Fourth Amendment by stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without cause and using unreasonable force.  They made enforcement decisions based on the way individuals expressed themselves and unnecessarily escalated non-threatening situations.  These violations were not only egregious – they were routine.  They were encouraged by the city in the interest of raising revenue.  They were driven, at least in part, by racial bias and occurred disproportionately against African-American residents.  And they were profoundly and fundamentally unconstitutional.  These findings were based upon information received from Ferguson’s own citizens, from Ferguson’s own records and from Ferguson’s own officials.  And they demonstrated a clear pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution and federal law.

After announcing our findings one year ago, we began negotiations with the city of Ferguson on a court-enforceable consent decree that would bring about necessary police and court reform.  From the outset, we made clear that our goal was to reach an agreement to avoid litigation.  But we also made clear that if there was no agreement, we would be forced to go to court to protect the rights of Ferguson residents.  Painstaking negotiations lasted more than 26 weeks as we sought to remedy literally years of systematic deficiencies.  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.

Today, the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.  We intend to aggressively prosecute this case and I have no doubt that we will prevail.

The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.  They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day.  They have waited nearly a year for their municipal courts to commit to basic, reasonable rules and standards.  But as our report made clear, the residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades.  They have waited decades for justice.  They should not be forced to wait any longer.

Justice Department Files Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

The lawsuit, filed pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), alleges that the city of Ferguson, through its police department and municipal court:

conducts stops, searches and arrests without legal justification, and uses excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
interferes with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment;
prosecutes and resolves municipal charges in a manner that violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and
engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal statutory law.

The lawsuit follows a comprehensive investigation of Ferguson’s police department and municipal court conducted by the Civil Rights Division. In March 2015, the department detailed its investigative findings in a 104-page report. The department found that Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, together with racial bias, has a profound effect on Ferguson’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

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Ferguson Refuses To Make Police Reforms Proposed By The DOJ

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Federal government sues Ferguson after city tries to revise reform deal

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Justice Department Sues Ferguson After City Amends Police Reform Deal
(includes link to the lawsuit text)

 

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