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Ferguson hopes to discuss Justice settlement after firings, according to mayor

A trio of people who worked in the police and municipal court system have been terminated, as the Missouri city tries to recover from racial bias charges by the US Department of Justice.

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Ferguson Mo., Mayor James W. Knowles reads a statement, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Ferguson.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Ferguson, Missouri, has fired three city employees and is pursuing a range of other reforms in an effort to negotiate a settlement with the US Justice Department after a federal investigation accused the city of illegal practices targeting African-Americans, the mayor said on Friday.

Three employees working in the police department and municipal court system were terminated due to evidence of "egregious racial bias," documented in emails and detailed in the Justice Department report released on Wednesday, said Mayor James Knowles.

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The firings come as the St. Louis suburb of 21,000, which has a mostly black population but a mostly white police force and city leadership, reels from the charges leveled by the Justice Department.

The investigation started after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9, triggering nationwide protests and illuminating long-held complaints in Ferguson and elsewhere about police treatment of minorities.

The Justice Department said it found racially disparate practices rampant through the police force, with officers targeting African-Americans for arrests and ticketing in part to raise revenue for the city through fines and fees.

It also found officers follow a pattern of using excessive force and illegally arresting people without cause.

Knowles said the city has hired a consultant to work with the police and would bring in "additional resources."

The city has been carrying a surplus of close to $5 million, he added, giving it the financial capability to handle the reform-related expenses.

Knowles said city leaders plan to meet with Justice Department officials in about two weeks to review reform strategies, and try to agree on a settlement.

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City officials have bristled at some of the report's allegations, and have complained about their dealings with the Justice Department.

"There are a lot of things in that report that are very troubling and need to be addressed, but there are also things that are an overreach," Knowles said.

"Our hope is those negotiations lead to mutual satisfaction. But if we cannot come to terms... we are not going to settle."

Knowles did not identify the employees who were fired and would not comment on whether Police Chief Tom Jackson would be asked to step down. Several community and civil rights leaders, as well as some lawmakers, have called for Jackson's ouster for months.

"We're looking at where the breakdown was and then we'll make changes accordingly," Knowles said.