The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the central U.S. city of Ferguson, Missouri, after it refused to accept a deal that would have reformed its mostly white police department.
The Ferguson City Council said the package, which had been negotiated between the federal government and city officials, costs too much.
At a news conference Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said while she was sensitive to the city's cost concerns, "There is no price for constitutional policing."
Lynch said the residents of Ferguson have been waiting "decades for justice,'' having endured civil rights breaches that established a pattern and practice of racially biased policing.
Ferguson has been under Justice Department scrutiny since 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson during a street altercation 18 months ago. A grand jury and the Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November 2014.
But a scathing Justice Department report was critical of police and a profit-driven municipal court system. Following months of negotiations, an agreement between the federal agency and Ferguson was announced in January.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles defended the City Council's unanimous decision to revise the agreement. One revision removed language that required Ferguson to raise police salaries to attract better candidates, including more minority officers.
When Ferguson and the Justice Department reached a tentative agreement last month, Knowles said the city did not then have a clear understanding of the cost of implementing it.