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The federal government is suing Ferguson to force policing reforms

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a press conference.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a press conference.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice is suing the government of Ferguson, Missouri, to carry out policing reforms following a months-long investigation into years of racially biased policing.

The lawsuit comes a year and a half after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown led to protests in the small Missouri town, helping give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and its protests against racial disparities in the criminal justice system and police use of force.

Justice Department and Ferguson negotiators appeared to tentatively agree to policing reforms last month.

But the Ferguson City Council, citing the high costs of the proposed agreement, went back on some of the proposed reforms. They voted to eliminate mandates for higher pay for police officers and jail staff and extended some deadlines, among other changes.

The Justice Department considers these changes unacceptable. So the federal department is now suing the city to force the original agreement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Wednesday.

"Painstaking negotiations lasted more than 26 weeks as we sought to remedy literally years of systematic problems and deficiencies," Lynch said. The Ferguson City Council's "decision leaves us no further choice."

For more on the policing reforms proposed in Ferguson, check out Vox's explainer.

Read the Justice Department's lawsuit against Ferguson