WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is close to an agreement with the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department on a deal intended to bring sweeping changes to the agency, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The overhaul could avert a civil-rights lawsuit that federal officials have the option to bring against departments that resist changing their policing practices.
The person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name, 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 3d.
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 said the two sides had made a "lot of progress" since the release of a harshly critical federal report earlier this year.
The federal government launched an investigation into Ferguson's policing protocols last year after the August 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer.