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Can a Connecticut city be a model for reforming the Ferguson police force?

The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has wrapped-up three days of meetings in Ferguson, Missouri, as it works on coming up with a plan to tackle the discriminatory policing practices detailed in its searing 100-page report last month.

Justice officials and community leaders now have the option to come to an agreement on reforms, but if an agreement cannot be reached, the Department of Justice can sue to enforce changes to the police force.

The Justice Department says the meetings have been positive so far. "Community members were overwhelmingly committed to assist in the effort to achieve meaningful police and court reform as quickly as possible," Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement Wednesday.

Ferguson's Police Department is smaller than most of the other police forces that have come under scrutiny by the Justice Department - such as New Orleans, Seattle, Detroit, and Cleveland.

But the Department does have one potential role model for reforming Ferguson. It's looking at the successful turnaround of a similar size police force in East Haven, Connecticut as a template for reforms in Ferguson.

Fixing Ferguson

Six years ago, Father James Manship of the St. Rose of Lima Church in East Haven, Connecticut began to hear complaints from the members of his mostly Latino church about aggressive encounters with police officers.

Manship decided to record these encounters, and he began videotaping interactions with the East Haven Police Department. In 2009, he was arrested after recording two police officers inside a convenience store.

"I started to record their activity, and that is when I was arrested. A false report was made to justify the arrest. That [charge] eventually was dismissed," Manship said in an interview.

But that video eventually helped trigger a federal investigation into the East Haven, Connecticut police force. And in 2011, the Department of Justice made a finding that East Haven officers had, in fact, engaged in discriminatory policing against Latinos.

Just three years later, federal compliance reports describe the turnaround within the department as "remarkable."

Father Manship has seen the difference for himself. "On the ground, on a practical everyday level, things have changed. People can travel freely to and from their homes. They are not being continually harassed," he said.

Now the Department of Justice hopes that Ferguson can learn from the East Haven Police Department's experience.

Acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, recently sat down with CBS News to discuss the Department's approach to reform in Ferguson.

She pointed out the differences between polices in bigger cities, compared to those in Ferguson or East Haven, saying, "With a smaller police department, the culture change, the tone setting, the accountability measures, those things can get put into place sometimes at a speedier rate, but it isn't easy anywhere."

Gupta says East Haven police reduced their use of excessive force and discriminatory ticketing with increased training, and by getting to know the people they serve.

"There was much greater engagement with the community so that outside of the enforcement context officers and leadership were meeting and understanding their community," Gupta said. "We gave the police department more the ability to self-correct when problems are identified. All of these things really put into place a new culture of policing in the town of East Haven."

As the Department now begins to apply these lessons to Ferguson, they say they want the input of the community. "The Justice Department can't come in and dictate everything: we need to hear from the city and community about what kind of police force they want in town," Gupta said.

The Justice Department says it intends to hold meetings in the coming weeks with Ferguson city officials, so that it can begin the process of negotiating a consent decree to reform the police department.

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