MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Ferguson Resists Federal Demand They Raise Police Wages. Justice Dept. Threatens Legal Action.

Order has nothing to do with city’s civil rights problems.

Ferguson City HallCredit: pasa47 / photo on flickrThe leaders of Ferguson, Missouri, are very much on board with the vast majority of the Department of Justice's demands of them in order to improve the way it treats its citizens, which until the outrage that followed Michael Brown's shooting, was like they were human piggy banks to be shaken down for loose change by the police and courts.

Last night, Ferguson's City Council voted to sign on to most of the 127-page list of demands and reforms that the Department of Justice has put before them designed to make the police and courts less prone to violating the civil rights of its citizens. But as I noted yesterday, there are some problems with the consent decree. There are components to it that appear to have nothing to do with civil rights and instead look like giveaways to city public safety employees that will drastically increase the amount of money the now-broke community will have to spend each year. The city is already spending at a deficit and analysts worried the agreement with the DOJ would add another $3 million or more to the city's expenses.

So last night, when it came time to vote, City Council unanimously approved the consent, but with seven conditions or changes. The big one is that the city is resisting orders to increase wages for its police or other staff. As noted yesterday, the mayor said they would have to hike the wages of each police officers by more than $14,000 a year on average and possibly have to eliminate other city government positions to give more money to the very people the citizens have accused of abusing them.

Here's the full list of the alterations they want to make to the agreement (Via ABC):

  • The agreement contains no mandate for additional salary to police department or other city employees.
  • The agreement contains no mandate for staffing in the Ferguson jail.
  • Deadlines in the original agreement are extended.
  • Terms of the agreement will not apply to other governmental entities or agencies who, in the future, take over services now provided by the city of Ferguson.
  • Include a provision for local preference in contracting with consultants, contractors and third parties providing services.
  • Include project goals for minorities and women participating in consulting, oversight and third-party services.
  • Changes monitoring fee caps to $1 million over the first five years of the agreement, with no more than $250,000 in any single year.

As we can see from some of these provisions, Ferguson leaders have clearly have an eye on trying to contract out services to save money. This is actually a wise idea if the city wants to remain intact. The town of 21,000 has a limited tax base and the predation of its citizenry was primarily due to the costs of providing its own services. If it stops actually seizing its citizens' money, it needs to find new sources of revenue (it is attempting to convince residents to raise taxes) or it needs to significantly reduce spending. If the citizens don't want to embrace more taxes, then Ferguson needs the flexibility to contract out for services or else it could very well cease to exist. That was what city leaders and some residents feared if they accepted the agreement as is.

The Justice Department responded by immediately threatening legal action:

"The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement in response to the vote. "Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers."

Gupta said the department "will take the necessary legal actions" to reform the city's courts and policing practices.

As far as the DOJ is concerned, Ferguson either accepts an agreement it can't afford (which has components that have absolutely nothing to do with ending abusive law enforcement and municipal court behavior) or it will face a lawsuit it probably also can't afford.

Read more about last night's vote here.

Photo Credit: pasa47 / photo on flickr

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Don Escaped Texas||

    Is there a required inventory of cops? I suppose the mayor could lay off enough cops to fund raises for the rest.

  • ||

    You underestimate the power of the police unions.

  • UnCivilServant||

    There have been towns where the union tried to demand other people's money after it had run out - the towns then dissolved the police force and contracted out the services.

  • Crimson Alliance||

    A town of 21k people would have a police department of 30 officers at the most. I seriously doubt they have a union.

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    They're covered by a statewide Union.

  • Hugh Akston||

    "The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement in response to the vote.

    It's not clear that Vanita knows what "negotiate" means.

  • commodious spittoon||

    She negotiated it with the Senior Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and they agreed to these conditions, and now the city council is reneging!

  • Mindyourbusiness||

    An aside: I wonder if fancy uniforms come with the titles. Something in black, say, with jackboots...

  • WTF||

    Yes, Obergruppenführer. Designed by Hugo Boss, no less.

  • WTF||

    "I can assure that in 20 seconds either your signature or your brains will be on this agreement."

  • ||

    "I am not altering the deal. Pray I don't not alter it any further."

  • ||

    Monitoring fees?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Heung yau.

  • ||

    The danegeld or vig

  • WTF||

    it treats its citizens...like they were human piggy banks to be shaken down for loose change by the police and courts.

    How is this different from any other fucking town in this country?

  • sarcasmic||

    Depends on the state. Here in ME, all ticket/fine/seizure revenue goes to the state's general fund. Town governments don't see a dime. As a result there is no incentive to police for profit, being that there is no profit in it for the police.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Come on, surely there's a kickback from the state legislature based on, uh, performance. Which are totally not quotas, though.

  • sarcasmic||

    They do get around it by teaming up the the feds for big drug busts, and then taking a cut through the Equitable Sharing or whatever the fuck it's called. But you generally don't see cops pulling people over left and right for silly shit just to raise revenue.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Fair enough. It does seem like an improvement. I'd just be surprised that there's an opportunity for graft legislators aren't seizing on. "This bill will reward officers for exemplary performance by offering incentive pay for extraordinary police work," which of course, buried deep in the entrails of the bill, will be defined as sending a lot of money to the state coffers.

  • Kandralla||

    I live near Ferguson.

    Go to google maps, type "Pine Lawn, MO", start there and follow I-70 west searching for the names of the little tiny cities that all bump up against the interstate. Some of them are smaller than the Jamestown Mall just to the north; they're little more than a small subdivision with their own Mayor, Courts, and often Police Departments.

    These are all little Fiefdoms of narcisistic little pissants who get elected to mayor and then use FUD to fend off any attempts at merging with the surrounding communities. They can't afford to not milk the populace (and anyone who happens to pass through) for all they're worth via fines and court fees. It's nothing but a tax on the individuals who made the mistake of existing within the borders so that some political thug can gets the opportunity to play at being important.

    For the record Pine Lawn in 2014 had about 2300 adult citizens, issued 17,000 traffic tickets, had over 30,000 open warrants and had revenue that over 60% was derived from fines and court fees.

  • Rich||

    As far as the DOJ is concerned, Ferguson … will face a lawsuit it probably also can't afford.

    Justice isn't free.

  • ||

    What is this story? There's nothing about the Donald or the BernBae here?

  • LarryA||

    "The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta,

    I think Mr. Gutpa meant "negotiated at the point of a gun."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Can we say the Ferguson City Council is making a furtive movement?

  • Rich||

    the 127-page list of demands and reforms that the Department of Justice has put before them

    does not *once* mention "Black Lives Matter", "Hands up! Don't shoot!", or "I can't breathe!"

  • Notorious UGCC||

    I couldn't help notice these proposed changes offered by the Ferguson city fathers (parents):

    "Include a provision for local preference in contracting with consultants, contractors and third parties providing services.

    "Include project goals for minorities and women participating in consulting, oversight and third-party services."

    I think they're asking to wet their beaks.

  • ||

    From what I recall, Ferguson is majority black so they shouldn't have trouble finding minority men or women.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Are these "National Minority" or "Community Minority" minorities? Because under a community minority standard, that would give preferential treatment to whites.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    I'm going to venture waaaay out on a limb and guess it's "National Minority" they're thinking of.

  • ||

    But don't give them any ideas.

  • Jerryskids||

    Ferguson leaders have clearly have an eye on trying to contract out services to save money.

    Yeah, no - they're simply outsourcing their thievery by "third-party servicing" everything to their "local preference" and "project goals for minorities" cronies and the shit train's gonna just keep rolling right along.

    (That explanation's for the commentariat that didn't realize Scott's being facetious and sarcastic - I know better than to think he doesn't know better than that.)

  • Scott S.||

    I decided not to engage in that idea because there probably isn't a solution that cronies aren't going to cash in on. The difference is whether they're cronies in Ferguson or cronies connected to the Justice Dept. I figure the local ones would be cheaper.

  • Michael||

    I was going to post this in the AM Linx, but that thread is getting a little long in the tooth. What the fuck was with all of the snide comments about the BLM activist that committed suicide? I understand that the movement's goals are often at odds with what libertarians hold true, but some of the comments were just fucking cold and uncalled for.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I'm evil.

  • Adans smith||

    You are here,so,yes you are,except for the progs that come to shine the light of day on our poor souls.

  • ||

    BLM has been tagged as "other TEAM" even though some of the things they want are in line with what many critics of the police want. And once they get tagged as "other", they're not human any more. Because not only does partisanship and TEAMs make you stupid, it makes you sociopathic towards anyone outside the TEAM. That's what you're seeing.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I more notice that organization's relentless race-baiting, poor command of facts and logic, and their counterproductive tactics.

  • ||

    That's wonderful, I'm very happy for you. So that's all it takes for you to switch off empathy, huh? Good to know.

  • kbolino||

    I consider the Chamber of Commerce "the other team" but that doesn't mean I'm unsympathetic to businessmen.

    Shitty organization != The plight of people they claim to represent

  • commodious spittoon||

    Except in this instance the comments were addressing a suicidal 23-year-old, not BLM. It may have been intended as an act of protest, but it was driven by depression.

  • kbolino||

    But the idea that Epi is positing is that the "lack of empathy" is connected with the movement and its association with a particular team. Yes, it manifested in the context of a man's suicide, but obviously that's not the only factor at play. Is the issue that merely people were dicks about a guy killing himself, or is the issue that they are callously disregarding legitimate concerns?

    You can't say that this connects back with a broader concept and then get upset when someone explores those implications.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Epi's preening a little bit hard on this mark. H&R has a streak of black humor a mile wide and an inch deep (we're rarely manifestly cruel, just bleak).

    But there's also room to pull your punches, and in this case it would have been appropriate. Progressives love to celebrate the deaths of their political adversaries as personal victories, but I like to think we're a little classier here. Not much, but it's a low bar to clear.

    (As for your question, it's the former, I think.)

  • ||

    I'm sure Epi, and 98.4% of the commentariat (40% if you counted all of Tulpa's socks as separate), would be equally as cruel if, say, the cop who shot Michael Brown had killed himself in this manner.

    To which, I'm saying that Epi is right, there is 'TEAM empathy' in effect. But there is always TEAM empathy at play.

  • ||

    There is often a marked lack of sympathy here for those who commit, or attempt, suicide, even if that person is not involved in anti-libertarian politics.

  • ant1sthenes||

    There is often a marked lack of sympathy here in general.

    Which is fine; sympathy in direct encounters helps people to make ethical choices. Sympathy on an internet forum is more about social signalling, which is why people are so likely not just to personally feel a 2-second twinge of minor sadness, but feel the need to say something sympathetic publicly, even when no one else in their audience is any more personally affected than they are.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Some random person I've never met offs themselves half a continent away, you're not going to see a whole lot of a reaction from me. He made his decision.

    And I'm glad to see that you're into emoting now. Won't work any more than the screeching identity politics emoting of BLM. When an organization decides it's going to be "in your face" and screaming at people unrelated to the issue for which they are "advocating" my reaction is "fuck off and die".

    If you want to address police abuse, spewing hate, storming libraries and blocking highways while under police protection is not the way the way to go about it. It turns off even potential allies.

    Yet another example: I don't like Bernie Sander, but intimidating his away from the podium at his own campaign event to call the crowd racists isn't going to endear me to your cause. (BLM protesters did exactly that) Walking into a car and claiming the driver tried to run you over, despite the whole incident being caught on video is also not going your cause any good.

    All that said, the one guy's decision to off himself and my non-reaction is a separate issue. He's a name in an article who actively chose to end his own existance. I'm not going to appologise for gallows humor.

  • ||

    Cool story, bro. Keep handwaving away the fact that a person wasted themselves and your reaction is "fuck them, I don't like the organization they were a part of, therefore I can totally switch off empathy". Which, by the way--I hope this doesn't fly over your head--is not the same as emoting. You think you can understand the difference one day, big guy?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Fuck off.

    I'm carrying on two conversations in one post - the I don't care about one person who decides to end himself, and one about the organization - the two separate topics you keep trying to lump together.

    No one can go weeping over every single person - they would be total wrecks before the week is out. You will not shed one tear for this guy - or anyone else. I reserve my empathy for where it will be of use. People who have grown-up control of their emotions do it all the time.

  • ||

    Conflation of actually having empathy with weeping: check.

    Spluttering assertions of being a grown-up: check.

    Redirection of your own reaction onto me, when I never even said a damn thing about "shedding tears" for anyone: check.

    Thanks for hitting all the expected marks. I expected nothing more from you.

  • UnCivilServant||

    You're clearly conflating me with someone else.

  • Michael||

    So when a stranger commits suicide, the only choice is to either emote or to say nasty shit. Got it. What's it like to live in such a binary world?

  • UnCivilServant||

    So when a stranger commits suicide, the only choice is to either emote or to say nasty shit. Got it. What's it like to live in such a binary world?

    No, the choices also include such things as doing nothing at all, which is the typical response, and wasting time 'empathising' with the plight of other complete strangers, whichever definition Epi decides to use this time. The fact that other reactions were not mentioned does not mean they do not exist.

  • Just say Nikki||

    Also, saying nasty shit is somehow not "emoting."

  • ||

    the only choice is to either emote or to say nasty shit

    Bullshit. There are a lot of people here who said absolutely nothing about the suicide. Come back when you can discuss things honestly and like an adult.

  • Just say Nikki||

    When an organization decides it's going to be "in your face" and screaming at people unrelated to the issue for which they are "advocating" my reaction is "fuck off and die".

    If you want to address police abuse, spewing hate, storming libraries and blocking highways while under police protection is not the way the way to go about it. It turns off even potential allies.

    #BourgeoisTears

  • Hugh Akston||

    "Look I'm sorry y'all are being murdered by soldiers of the omnistate, but I only get an hour for lunch."

  • Michael||

    That's just the thing. I actually am quite sympathetic to the BLM movement in regards to police misconduct and brutality. I lived in a largely black, lower income neighborhood for a good part of the aughts, and I've seen some absolutely nauseating behavior on the part of the local cops on a fairly regular basis. It's a shame that so many libertarian types hew so far close the law and order mentality when it comes to urban matters, because an opportunity was present to make inroads with black communities. Instead we're seeing the Bernie Sanders piloted SJW derpmobile careening full throttle over us.

  • Just say Nikki||

    urban matters

    There's your problem. New York values.

  • kbolino||

    Nobody gives a shit about politics outside of their own interests, news at eleven.

    Calling the underlying issues "urban matters" is itself misleading, since it implies a conformity of thought among urban residents and an underlying political conflict between urban and suburban/rural residents, even though the issues at hand are largely local in nature.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • kbolino||

    I get that, which is why I said what I said. There are pretty blatant undercurrents of Marxist cultural analysis here; white vs black, urban vs non-urban, rich vs poor. Yet that fails to capture the nuance of the situation and basically guarantees that people are going to divide up into teams. But even so, the teams aren't what people keep claiming they are. A rich white suburbanite asshole may not give a rat's ass about a poor black city-dweller getting beaten by the police, but the two things are about as connected as Venezuela's toilet paper shortage and the CIA's clandestine operations.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I agree with you. In reply to Michael's observation

    It's a shame that so many libertarian types hew so far close the law and order mentality when it comes to urban matters, because an opportunity was present to make inroads with black communities.

    I pointed out that in this certain context, some folks are unwilling to view it beyond a certain lens.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    I personally think he's wrong about making inroads because there are too many other issues where inner city blacks tend to vehemently disagree with us.

    The reason to oppose their oppression is because you oppose all oppression, regardless of the race of those being oppressed, not because you irrationally think we'll be able to turn low income urban blacks into libertarians by agreeing with them on one issue.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's a shame that so many libertarian types hew so far close the law and order mentality when it comes to urban matters, because an opportunity was present to make inroads with black communities.

    Not to speak for Michael, but the term 'make inroads' does entail a full-on conversion to me. If we're going to adopt a missionary metaphor for libertarianism (something I'm vehemently opposed to, btw), are we not going to send missionaries to the Amazon rainforest just because one missionary can't convert an entire tribe?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    *doesn't entail

  • Robert||

    "Urban" comes in for some odd uses. Coach Correa at DumCoach referred to his own flavor of wing T football offense as "urban", leading the rest of us to wonder WTF?

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    Libertarians should care about 'urban matters' because it's unprincipled not to. Black people being abused by cops is against libertarian principles. That's why we should oppose it.

    The idea we'll make inroads with inner city African Americans is ridiculous though. This is especially true of BLM activists. BLM activists are currently discussing how much money they should get paid in slave reparations, so I don't see them as particularly on our side, except for a few policing issues.

  • ||

    inner city African Americans

    Nope. Welfare recipients and those who hold do-nothing, patronage prositions in (or funded by) government. There are poor rural blacks (and whites, etc) on welfare, and they consistently vote for the free-stuff candidates. There are doubtlessly many truly urban blacks who own or operate small businesses and who may vote otherwise, but their few votes are drowned out by the many moocher votes.

  • kbolino||

    The great tragedy of all this is all the businesses and private property that have been destroyed by the "protests"* surrounding all of this.

    * = The incidents I'm talking about are riots, but many people keep calling them "protests" as though they intentionally want to conflate peaceful demonstration with violent destruction in order to foster the sort of division I talked about above

  • ||

    It's a bit more complicated than that, IMO. There were indeed protests, some of which turned into riots. I believe that a reasonable percentage of the protesters were just there to protest. There were also people who were there just to riot and loot. And there were probably some protesters who had no intention of rioting, but ended up doing so. Social facilitation is a hell of a thing.

  • Robert||

    I get mixed up with "BLM protest" references these days, because it could be Black Lives Matter or Bureau of Land Mgmt. protests.

  • Just say Nikki||

    Don't you know, Michael, that people who make different decisions from H&R commenters about the desirability of living are ipso facto wrong?

  • ant1sthenes||

    If by "people" you mean "Nikki", you make a fair, non-sarcastic point.

  • Jerryskids||

    He wasn't even primarily a BLM activist - the kid got started making sandwiches for hungry people because he once was homeless and hungry and knew what it felt like to have somebody give you a kind word and a sandwich. He didn't demand the government set up a Department of A Kind Word And A Sandwich, he just went out and gave people a fucking sandwich.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    He was a monster and I'm glad he's dead.

    Was he even a BLM activist at all? I thought he just got an award for doing charity work. Seemed like a pretty good guy.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    "Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers."

    Sorry, what about jacking up police officer pay is necessary to 'constitutional policing.'

    It's unsurprising the feds don't give a fuck about keeping costs reasonable, though. "Well, in Washington we have 3.5 trillion dollars to play around with! Don't you have those kinds of funds? Surely you guys can pay a little raise!"

  • Adans smith||

    4.15 is now the going number.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, the DoJ's position is that the City of Ferguson should stop shaking down its citizens to make up for the discrepancy between its revenues and expenses. And to do this, they should vastly increase the discrepancy between its revenues and expenses. Frankly, I hope if the DoJ presses the matter the town government simply disbands.

    Hey, if New Hampshire doesn't work out, libertarians could settle ex-Ferguson.

  • Adans smith||

    Hey,it works in in Washington land.George must roll in the grave with a city like that named after him.

  • ||

    No, you need someplace without a large welfare class. Ferguson is one of the mostly-poor, mostly-black suburbs of STL. But if you think that's bad, go across the river to East St. Louis (IL) - rustbelt, poor white, meth-head country.

  • Adans smith||

    So paying shitty cops more to do the same job is for "civil rights"? They have just handed Ferguson a reason to police for profit.Maybe they will ramp up the drug war,seize property ,cash and cars.Gotta pay the bills.They could sell some of that sweet war material they received for the feds or cut the frorce in half,lol

  • Spoonman.||

    Why don't they just disincorporate and sell the water system to Aqua or another similar private-sector provider? What is the argument for the continued existence of Ferguson as a government entity?

  • Adans smith||

    And how will all the top men there make a living? Huh?

  • creech||

    All the City Council should resign. Then let the feds "take over" so the blame falls exactly where it should.

  • ||

    What is the argument for the continued existence of Ferguson as a government entity?

    Srsly? Yeah, taking self-governance away from a black township and giving that back to white-majority St. Louis county would go over real well.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Be fair. It is not as if the Obama administration has any experience with keeping costs inline with revenues.

  • Certified Public Asshat||

  • UnCivilServant||

    "Is expected"

    The press said Carson was expected to drop, and he hasn't.

    I'll wait until he officially drops.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Don't worry about the press. Just stick a glass of water on your desk. When he drops, you'll be the first to know.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I'm worried that the shockwave will be more damaging in New York than further afield.

  • Rhywun||

    "suspend" - FFS

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    We'll get that Middle East straightened out any day now.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Rhywun||

    Turkey has always been at war with Eastturkey.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online