Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that the Justice Department has sued the Ferguson Police Department -- just one day after the city rejected a legal overhaul from the department.
“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,” Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”
The lawsuit follows the Ferguson City Council’s vote to revise legal guidelines from the Justice Department meant to overhaul policing and court practices in the St. Louis suburb.
The Missouri city was a flashpoint of civil unrest after unarmed black 18 year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by white police officer Darren Wilson in 2014.
While the officer was cleared of wrongdoing in the killing, the shooting and subsequent police crackdown on the social unrest that followed brought to the forefront of American society the issue of police violence.
The Justice Department issued a 104-page report last March alleging that the city prioritized fundraising over public safety and discriminated against black residents.
The report found that blacks were twice as likely as non-blacks to be searched, receive a citation or be arrested in records reviewed from a two-year period beginning in Oct. 2012.
The Ferguson City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to adopt the Justice Department’s recommendations, but with revisions.
The council reportedly said that adopting the recommendations wholesale would be a devastating financial blow to the city and could possibly lead to its dissolution.
“Unable to reach a mutually agreed upon court-enforceable settlement to remedy the department's findings, the lawsuit was filed today in order to seek declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy the unlawful conduct identified by the department’s investigation,” the Justice Department said.
The lawsuit alleges that Ferguson’s police and municipal court have been involved in “a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws”.