Ferguson city manager resigns days after Justice Department report

Ferguson's city manager resigns; his job included overseeing the widely criticized Police Department

Ferguson, Mo., City Manager John Shaw resigned Tuesday, the day after the city's municipal judge stepped down and less than a week after a federal investigation found that the city's police officers and court had excessively and unfairly targeted black residents for ticketing and arrest.

The St. Louis suburb said its City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to accept a mutual separation agreement with Shaw, whose job had included overseeing the Ferguson Police Department and nominating municipal judges. He had been city manager for eight years, and his resignation was effective immediately, the city said in a statement.

Details of the separation agreement were not provided.

A report by the U.S. Justice Department, which was released last week, was the result of a months-long investigation sparked by the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

The Justice Department's investigators found the Police Department and local court system had engaged in institutionalized discrimination against the city's black residents, in essence using those residents to generate revenue for the city.

As part of a lengthy statement Tuesday, Shaw sought to distance himself from such practices.

"While I certainly respect the work that the [Justice Department] recently performed in their investigation and report on the city of Ferguson," he wrote, "I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the Police Department to target African Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor."

Shaw's resignation came a day after Ferguson Municipal Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer stepped down. Both officials had been mentioned repeatedly in the Justice Department’s report.

One passage of the report describes a 2012 exchange between Shaw and a member of the City Council who was trying to discourage other city officials from reappointing Brockmeyer.

According to the report, the council member wrote that the judge “does not listen to the testimony, does not review the reports or the criminal history of defendants, and doesn’t let all the pertinent witnesses testify before rendering a verdict.” Even if switching judges would lead to a slight loss in city revenue, the council member wrote, “I think it’s more important that cases are being handled properly and fairly.”

The city manager apparently didn’t agree. According to the report, Shaw “urged that the judge be reappointed,” saying, “The city cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our courts, nor experience any decrease in our fines and forfeitures.”

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


6:46 p.m.: This post has been updated with information from the Justice Department report.

The first version of this post was published at 6:24 p.m.