- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) - A group of Ferguson residents is urging transparency from city officials who are negotiating with the US Department of Justice to resolve policing practices criticized in a department report earlier this year.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1Q54DVr ) reports the residents are part of a group called the Ferguson Collaborative. The group sent formal letters to city officials Tuesday, requesting a status update on the negotiations.

They also offered a list of policing changes that they want to see, and they requested a fairness hearing for when the DOJ and the city eventually file the consent decree, or agreement, with the courts.

The group’s attorney, Denise Lieberman, said “The people who most stand to be affected by the terms of this settlement have not been party to the negotiations themselves or had a chance to weigh in about the provisions, (which) particularly speaks in favor of a fairness hearing,”

The DOJ’s 102-page report criticized policing and court practices in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in 2014 by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Wilson resigned and was not charged in the shooting.

According to the report, Ferguson police target black citizens, stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion, arrest people without probable cause, use excessive force and routinely violate civil rights. The report also said the city used its courts and police as a source of revenue through traffic enforcement.

The report said the police department’s actions created an atmosphere of distrust between city officials and citizens.

Jeff Small, a spokesman for the city of Ferguson, said the city has tried to include the public as much as possible, and cited community forums that have been held.

“We felt it would best be handled by the appropriate legal professionals,” Small said of the negotiations.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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