The Ferguson, Missouri, mayor said Wednesday that the city is committed to keeping its own police department, despite the resignation of Chief Thomas Jackson in the wake of a scathing federal report that found the agency tainted with racism and unfairness.
"We are committed to keeping our police department," Mayor James Knowles said at a press conference in the St. Louis suburb on Wednesday, following the news that Jackson had submitted his resignation letter and reached a departure agreement with the city government.
Asked about his own future, Knowles indicated he had no plans to step down.
"Someone has to be here to run the ship," Knowles said.
The Department of Justice investigation of Ferguson, begun after massive unrest that followed an officer's fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August, raised questions of whether the city would continue to operate a police department, given the high cost of reform, and whether it would contract with another law enforcement agency to take over policing. But Knowles said the city was determined to have its own police department, despite the widespread problems identified by federal authorities.
Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff, who will temporarily take over Jackson's duties while the city seeks a permanent replacement, joined the department just before Officer Darren Wilson killed Brown on Aug. 9. Jackson will receive a severance package of around $100,000, Knowles said.
The Justice Department report issued last week portrayed the police department and the city municipal court as focused on revenue over public safety.
Two police department employees resigned over racist emails and and the city's top court clerk was fired. City Manager John Shaw, who allegedly helped turn the police department into what Attorney General Eric Holder called a "collection agency," resigned this week. Jackson also played a major role in boosting town revenue at the expense of protecting citizens, according to the DOJ report.
UPDATE: 8:05 p.m. -- Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement:
The results of the Civil Rights Division’s investigation into the practices of Ferguson Police Department remain a top concern and priority. The division will continue to work with Ferguson Police and city leadership, regardless of whomever is in those positions, to reach a court enforceable agreement that will address their unconstitutional practices in a comprehensive manner. As part of this ongoing commitment, in the coming weeks the Civil Rights Division staff will travel to Ferguson, Missouri, to discuss the findings and next steps with community members and Ferguson city leadership.
Mariah Stewart contributed to this report.
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