The proposed agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and Ferguson, Mo., has been noted for its scope and specificity, but for all its detail, it does not answer two critical questions: How much will reforms to the city's police department and municipal court cost, and how will Ferguson, already burdened by multimillion-dollar deficits, pay for them? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the City Council wants to hear from residents. A council vote on the proposal is set for Feb. 9. The outcome appears far from certain and may depend on the resolution to a dispute over who should fill a vacant council seat.
Some residents, even those who believe the police and court are rife with abuse, believe the agreement leaves their city with no good options, only dilemmas. “Because Ferguson misused their police department, this consent decree places a crushing burden on them in an effort to ensure that they are absolutely perfect in the future,” said resident Nick Kasoff. “It strikes me that the price is to make it impossible to do the job of a police department.” Presented with extensive reforms, the city faces a seemingly simple choice, but each alternative carries the possibility of financial ruin. Ferguson can approve the agreement, trusting that voters will approve two tax increases in April that will provide some relief. Or it can reject it, hoping to prevail in a lawsuit the Justice Department would almost certainly file against the city.