Ferguson Announces Police Reforms To End Unlawful Arrests

It's a great start.

After seven months of negotiations, the city of Ferguson, Missouri and the Department of Justice reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday to reform the city's entire policing operation. Both sides hope the agreement will end unlawful arrests in the community.

"The agreement also will ensure that the city's stated commitment to refocusing police and municipal court practices on public safety, rather than revenue generation, takes root and will not be undone," Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote in a letter to Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III, according to ABC News.

The 131-page agreement includes a body-worn camera requirement for all patrol officers, a guarantee that the court system is independent of local prosecutors, a protection of citizens' rights to film police officers, an elimination of stun gun punishments, bias-free training for all law enforcement officials and an initiative to add more diversity to the police force.

There is also a unique provision regarding search warrants in the new agreement. Police officers must ask for consent to conduct searches and remind people of their constitutional rights. The entire conversation must also be videotaped.

The agreement would need to be approved by the City Council during its February 2016 meeting. The Department of Justice is hopeful that it will be.

"I just want to listen to the citizens before I say I fully back this agreement," Mark Byrne, a Ferguson councilman, told The New York Times. "It's going to be the citizens of this city that are not just going to have to bear the costs, but are going to have to get behind it. You can't have community policing without the community."

A March 2015 report released by the Department of Justice detailed how the police and the court system operated a moneymaking scheme where civilians received expensive fines for minor offenses. African-Americans were disproportionately more likely to have vehicle stops and get arrested than Caucasians. There were details of excessive uses of force against African-Americans, including tasers and police dogs.

The investigation followed the August 2014 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African-American, by officer Darren Wilson. The incident sparked a national debate regarding civil rights and police tactics.

The Department of Justice hopes to use the agreement with Ferguson as an example to help other cities improve their law enforcement practices.

Cover image via Scott Olson/Getty Images.