ST. LOUIS (AP) – Ferguson city leaders will meet with Justice Department officials in about two weeks and provide a plan for ways to improve the police department following a scathing report released this week, Mayor James Knowles III said Friday.
Knowles told The Associated Press that the goal is to work out an agreement with the federal government. A specific meeting date has not been set.
“They want to hear what we will do,” Knowles said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to hopefully work out some sort of agreement and we’ll move forward.
“We’ve got to come up with solutions now,” Knowles said.
The Justice Department on Wednesday cleared Darren Wilson, the white former Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown, of federal civil rights charges in the death of the 18-year-old, who was black and unarmed. A St. Louis County grand jury also found no evidence of a crime and announced in November that Wilson would face no state charges.
But a separate Justice Department report released Wednesday found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the St. Louis County suburb that has come to represent the tension between minorities and American police nationwide. Most of Ferguson’s police officers and top elected officials are white, but two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black.
Knowles said city leaders are still going over the report “line by line” before determining reforms. Asked about Police Chief Tom Jackson, Knowles said he still leads the police force, but the mayor declined to discuss Jackson’s future. Messages seeking comment from Jackson were not returned.
“I’m not here to just chop heads,” Knowles said. “We have to evaluate everything in the report, pick out what are the systemic issues and what are the things we can fix.”
The report uncovered racist emails from three city employees, including some that belittled black residents or President Barack Obama. Knowles said all three employees responsible for those emails ended employment with the city on Thursday. He declined to say if they were fired or resigned and would not provide their names or titles.
The mayor said he first learned of the emails Wednesday after meeting with Justice officials in St. Louis. He said he was so incensed that he ordered the accounts of all three employees disabled while he was in the car returning to Ferguson after the meeting.
Knowles said there was no evidence that Jackson or other police administrators were aware of those emails.
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