Who We Are
The Ferguson Collaborative formed to hold the City of Ferguson, the Department of Justice, and the independent monitor accountable to the people of Ferguson, Missouri. Our primary goal is to act as true representatives of the people in the consent decree process. We accomplish this by:
- Attending every federal status court hearing, even when we cannot provide public comments
- Testifying at every federal status court hearing when the judge permits public comment
- Attending every consent decree related forum and town hall that the DOJ, Independent Monitor, or City of Ferguson sponsor
- Serving on the Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee to provide input on Ferguson Police Department Policies
- Advocating for the City of Ferguson to repair harm to the thousands of Black people who have been hurt by illegal court and policing practices
- Speaking at city council and county council meetings about the state of police in Ferguson
- Planning community events to keep residents informed about the consent decree’s progress
- Travel across the country to learn from and help other organizers involved in consent decrees
- Running a website and Facebook page to keep the community informed about upcoming events
- Everything we can to make sure Ferguson changes!
Consent Decree Background
When Ferguson Police Department Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown, Jr. on August 9, 2014, the world learned what poor people and Black people in St. Louis had known for decades: the police, courts, and city government systemically violate civil rights to create revenue for their towns.
The United States Department of Justice investigated Wilson for the shooting, but in spite of dozens of accounts to the contrary, did not conclude he had violated Mike Brown’s civil rights. During the course of the DOJ’s time in Ferguson, however, local organizations and community members repeatedly raised wide spread misconduct in St. Louis County’s municipal court system, including the City of Ferguson’s. After gaining a greater understanding from individuals and local organizations dedicated to supporting their community, the DOJ expanded its investigation to include Ferguson’s municipal court. They reported that the City of Ferguson engaged in illegal patterns and practices of discrimination against Black people. The City of Ferguson denied the finding, yet reluctantly entered into a consent decree with the DOJ. The City of Ferguson did not admit that it committed the violations, but agreed to make recommended changes as a party to the case. The consent decree process lasts for at least five years.
The consent decree has two parties, the DOJ and the City of Ferguson, and an “independent monitor.” The DOJ represents the people of Ferguson. However, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jefferson repeatedly disregarded consent decrees and back law enforcement officers. Sessions even stopped the DOJ from continuing a consent decree with Chicago Police Department after finding decades of documented abuse and torture. Attorney Apollo Carey represents the City of Ferguson. Carey is a corporate lawyer with Lewis Rice LLC.
The independent monitor is Natasha Tidwell, a former police officer and prosecutor. Tidwell is now a corporate lawyer with Hogan Lovells LLC’s Boston office. The first independent monitor resigned after spending significant chunks of the budget and failing to meet most deadlines. Tidwell has not provided an updated budget or list of deadlines to the court or the public. The monitoring team can be paid a maximum of $1.25 million over the course of the five-year term of the consent decree.
This Isn't New
In 1966, T.E. Lauer, a law professor at the University of Missouri, wrote about these corrupt and failed courts in a publication available to every lawyer in Missouri. For 30 years, the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been filled with stories of lives ruined by the municipalities.
ArchCity Defenders wrote a paper detailing the failures of these courts in 2014 finding that Ferguson raised $2,635,400 from 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases they filed in 2013. That equates to about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.
18 years ago, due to allegations of racial profiling, Missouri’s Attorney General was forced to begin publishing racial disparity data annually regarding traffic stops. Every year, the data told the same story. Black motorists were more likely to be stopped, searched, and arrested than their white counterparts.
According to the Missouri Attorney General’s report on racial disparity in traffic stops, 86% of vehicle stops in Ferguson involved a Black motorist, although Black people made up just 67% of the population in 2014; by comparison, whites comprise 29% of the population of Ferguson but just 12.7% of vehicle stops. After being stopped in Ferguson, Black people were almost twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.1% vs. 6.9%) and twice as likely to be arrested (10.4% vs. 5.2%). However, searches of Black individuals result in discovery of contraband only 21.7% of the time, while similar searches of whites produce contraband 34.0% of the time.
In 2018, the numbers are worse.
More importantly, tens of thousands of residents have complained of the illegal, unethical, immoral acts of Ferguson and other cities in St. Louis County for generations. While those in power ignored their call for help, everyone knew about what was going on in these courts.