Ferguson appears to have rebuffed a Justice Department draft proposal to reform the city’s police and courts and requested more time to come up with a counteroffer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Comments from one council member suggest that the distance between the two sides may have more to do with finances than anything else. “We feel that what they are asking would financially ruin the city,” Councilman Brian Fletcher said. Other city officials downplayed the significance of the back-and-forth between the city and the federal agency, which last March, denounced the practices of the city's court and police department. “Let me just put this in perspective,” said Councilman Wesley Bell. “The DOJ didn't expect us to accept their first proposal. This is just part of the negotiations. That's all. You want $200. You ask for $400.” The city is already reeling from several financial setbacks because of the unrest that followed Brown's shooting and the grand jury decision that cleared then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson last year.
Sales tax revenue is down. So is the amount the city collects from fines and fees. Ferguson had to pay out large severances to its former police chief and city manager, both of whom quit after the DOJ report was released. This summer, the city council passed a budget with a $3.2 million deficit. The cost of a federal monitor — a typical feature of an agreement between a police department and the DOJ — could run in excess of $1 million. Prof. Sam Walker of the University of Nebraska-Omaha said the Justice Department didn't usually give cities much room to negotiate this far along in the process. “I don't think there is any reason to assume that this is like the sale of a home,” he said. Federal monitors were expensive but Walker said they play a crucial role, advising the city and reporting on its progress. “They are going to be paying for all the things they didn't do, that they should have done,” he said