Three Ferguson-area State Representatives are proposing to create an emergency loan fund to help municipalities. Courtney Curtis (D-Ferguson), Sharon Pace (D-St. Louis) and Rochelle Walton Gray (D-Black Jack) said a goal is to provide the city of Ferguson with funding to apply reforms outlined by the U.S. Justice Department.
“An emergency to me would be anything that threatens the viability of a city from continuing, at least in terms of implementing some of the consent decree requirements,” said Curtis.
“That would be an emergency because essentially with the lawsuit pending, the cost of that and already with the current deficit, it’s not necessarily possible for Ferguson to move forward without additional assistance.”
The department filed this week a lawsuit against Ferguson, one day after the City Council voted to reject a proposal meant to overhaul the city’s police department and municipal court system.
The city said the Justice Department’s proposal would cost an estimated $2.1 million to $3.7 million the first year. An attorney for Ferguson has said it would cost more to implement the agreement than it would be to fight a lawsuit.
All three lawmakers said the city needs to take immediate action to comply with the settlement that would have prohibited police officers from making arrests without probable cause, required officers, supervisors and jail workers to wear body cameras, called for more thorough training of police officers and required pay raises for police officers.
“I understand the city believes it cannot afford to implement the reforms demanded by the Department of Justice, but it also cannot afford a lawsuit that could cost millions, and the people of Ferguson certainly cannot afford for the city to continue to ignore the blatant injustices committed by law enforcement,” said Curtis.
Curtis said $10 million would be a good start for the fund.
“If there’s anything the state can do to live up to its responsibilities now, it’s incumbent upon us to go ahead and come up with at least a vehicle to potentially provide help,” said Curtis.
“If this doesn’t work, hopefully it puts it squarely on the Governor’s desk, in terms of trying to figure out how he can help Ferguson, given that he didn’t do a lot of good for Ferguson during the Ferguson events.”
The Justice Department opened an investigation after the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr. by then-police officer Darren Wilson. That investigation determined that Ferguson police demonstrated a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional traffic stops, use of force and jail sentences against African-Americans.