*City council members in Ferguson met on Tuesday for the first time since the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9 to discuss the big job ahead of them. The group wants to develop strategies that will help repair the relationship between the city’s police department and the residents who have lost trust in them, among other things. The plan moving forward is to establish a review board that will, in essence, police the police; and help guide the department.
The shooting of Brown opened a floodgate of racial tension and alleged police brutality that had lay dormant beneath the surface in Ferguson and its surrounding regions of mainly black communities throughout North St. Louis County. Now the city has little to no alternative but to address (and work to repair) what the residents of Ferguson have lived with; and the public has been exposed to via cellphones, surveillance cameras and witness accounts, head on.
Some of the changes the city council plans to make include reducing the revenue from court fines used for general city operations and reforming court procedures, according to a statement from a public relations firm hired by Ferguson. Critics say reliance on court revenue and traffic fines to fund city services more heavily penalizes low-income defendants who can’t afford private attorneys and who are often jailed for not promptly paying those fines.
“The overall goal of these changes is to improve trust within the community and increase transparency, particularly within Ferguson’s courts and police department,” Councilman Mark Byrne said in the statement. “We want to demonstrate to residents that we take their concerns extremely seriously.”
“Patterns of discrimination” will be the focus of an internal investigation of the Ferguson police department by the U. S. Dept. of Justice, as announced last week.
Ferguson, a city of 21,000, is 70-percent black; and according to a report by the Missouri Attorney General’s office police stopped and arrested black motorists almost twice as often as their white counterparts. Reports also show that contraband was less likely to be found in the black drivers’ possession.
Court fines and fees accounted for nearly one-fifth of Ferguson’s budget in the last fiscal year, or $2.6 million dollars. Double the amount collected by the city two years prior.
The Ferguson court system is one of three named by the St. Louis legal group, ArchCity Defenders , as “chronic defenders.” Defendants in Ferguson say the system is overwhelmed by crowds and claim the bailiffs locked the doors five minutes after the scheduled start time, then began to issue “failure to appear” citations for those who arrived late.
Read more at MSN News.