WASHINGTON

- The Justice Department is close to an agreement with police in Ferguson, Mo., on a deal intended to bring sweeping changes to the agency, a source said yesterday.

The overhaul, once finalized, could avert a civil rights lawsuit that federal officials have the option to bring against departments that resist changing their policing practices.

The source, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the agreement still requires final approval by the city but calls for improvements including more thorough training of police officers. Such deals also generally require the appointment of a monitor to oversee a police department's compliance.

Ferguson city officials cautioned that no deal was imminent, and said that while significant progress had been made, they remained concerned about the cost of a deal they fear could "bankrupt" an already financially troubled community.

"We want to get it past us, but at the same time we're not going to agree to anything we don't think is appropriate or we can't afford," said Mayor James Knowles III.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to discuss those concerns or the timing of any resolution, but said in a statement that negotiations to create a court-enforceable consent had been "productive." Another person familiar with the process, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two sides had made a "lot of progress" since the release of a harshly critical federal report earlier this year.

"The department believes that in order to remedy the Justice Department's findings an agreement needs to be reached without delay," Iverson said in a statement.