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Ferguson gets mixed reviews on consent decree compliance

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles sits with City Council members as residents comment on the consent decree in February.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

The city of Ferguson has made halting progress toward complying with a federal consent decree it signed in April.

Attorneys for the city, the Department of Justice and members of the independent monitoring team assigned to the case were in front of Judge Catherine Perry on Wednesday to give her an update. It was the first public review of the document since Perry accepted it five months ago.

Of the 40 objectives whose deadlines have passed, seven have not been implemented, according to a spreadsheet provided to the court. Another 20 are listed as "in  progress." 

"We are not where we had hoped to be," said Justice Department attorney Christy Lopez said. "Certainly, some deadlines have passed." 

Some of those requirements are "foundational," Lopez said, meaning that until they are in place, it will be difficult to comply with other portions of the consent decree. They include:

  • Selecting a compliance coordinator for the city. Currently, city manager De'Carlon Seawood is handling that job along with his other duties.
  • Developing a mechanism to have policies reviewed by the DOJ and the independent monitor to ensure they comply with the consent decree. For example, the ordinance setting up a civilian review board had to be re-written.
  • Developing a mechanism to verify what the city has accomplished.

But, Lopez said, the city, the federal government and the independent monitor have developed a solid working relationship, and the city should be applauded for the hard work it's doing.
"We are not where we had hoped, but we are hopeful," she said.

Perry wished the parties luck.

"I appreciate the hard work, but keeping working," she said. "I'm pleased at the results. I think this will ultimately be successful."

Clark Ervin, the independent monitor, met with residents and community leaders on Wednesday. He told the court he plans to hold similar sessions at least every six weeks and possibly every month. The DOJ, city and Ervin's  team planned a full day of meetings on Thursday.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.