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The St. Louis County Municipal Court Racket

Since Michael Brown was shot & killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, the entire country has learned a dirty little secret: some of our municipalities make big money ticketing & arresting our residents, often minorities. Just as corporations that operate  for-profit prisons seek more prisoners, some of the 90 unsustainable municipalities within St. Louis County need to stop people driving through their tiny municipal borders to keep the municipal coffers full:

Unfortunately, for many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay. (ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper)

I recommend reading all 37 pages of the ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper, it’s an eye-opener! They looked at 60 courts and found “approximately thirty of those courts did engage in at least one of these [illegal and harmful] practices.” The report focuses on the three “chronic offenders”: Bel-Ridge, Florissant, and…Ferguson.

A personal friend has two citations from Vinita Park, population 1880, but the fine amounts aren’t on the citations he was issued. Neither of his citations were for speeding.

The fine amount doesn't appear on the citation, note is it online. Nobody at the company in Georgia knows the fine amounts either.
The fine amount doesn’t appear on the citation, note is it online. Nobody at the company in Georgia knows the fine amounts either. You’ve got to show up in court or call to get the amount to pay.

Logging online and entering your citation number doesn’t bring up the fine amount either, you must know it to enter and pay it. Late fees, of an unknown amount, are added. A bench warrant is issued if you miss the court date.  My friend finally reached a person by phone at Vinita Park City Hall that could tell him the amounts. Earlier calls went unanswered.

Yesterday I posted about the Flordell Hills, pop 822, city website which doesn’t list the elected officials, but has a detailed court section accepting online payments.  Their new police force begins October 1st.

More affluent municipalities, such as Chesterfield, don’t need to use such tactics to survive financially.  Their residents & visitors would never tolerate the injustices.

The poor in the region live in or drive through these predatory municipalities daily. Ferguson is taking steps toward change.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Thoughts On Flordell Hills Police, Pop 822, Starting Its Own Police Force On Oct 1st

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Starting October 1st St. Louis County will have another police force:

Flordell Hills has decided to form its own police department even though the city only has 822 residents.
The city said the move has been in works for months. The department will feature six full time officers, and it will cost more than what the city paid to have County Club Hills patrol the municipality. The city will have one officer for every few square blocks. (KMOV)

There are different ways one might view this change, so I thought this would be a good poll topic this week. The exact poll question is “Starting Oct 1st the north county suburb of Flordell Hills, pop 822, will have its own police force again. Thoughts:” I’ve provided a few answers but you can also type in your own if you don’t like mine. The poll is in the right sidebar. Mobile users need to switch to the desktop layout.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll Results On Ferguson Shooting

The poll last week had two questions related to the the shooting of Michael Brown and the leadership afterwords. Many more voters than usual, but these events are known around the world so I expected higher than usual numbers.

Which of the following do you think happened in Ferguson MO on Saturday Aug 9th? (331 votes)

  1. Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, forcefully stole cigars from a convenience store a half mile away; was killed by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson who used appropriate force 153 [46.22%]
  2. Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, forcefully stole cigars from a convenience store a half mile away; was killed by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson who used excessive force 110 [33.23%]
  3. Unsure/No Opinion 38 [11.48%]
  4. Michael Brown, an innocent unarmed teenager; was murdered by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson. 30 [9.06%]

In the initial week I would’ve voted for the answer that received the least amount of votes; he was innocent and murdered. The Friday before the poll stared Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released images of a strong-arm robbery just prior to PO Darren Wilson shooting & killing Brown. Doing so, just before releasing Wilson’s name, was a deliberate attempt to blame the victim. I was skeptical about the timing, leaving the Ferguson Market and getting to Canfield Green in such a short amount of time.  Only later we learn officer Wilson wasn’t aware Brown was a suspect. Still, I don’t think any objective person could’ve picked the last answer, as 30 people did.

The store police say Michael Brown stole a box of cigars.
The store police say Michael Brown stole a box of cigars.

The answer that got the most votes was that Wilson used appropriate force. I disagree, I voted that Wilson used excessive force.Very few reasons why an officer should shoot someone six times, walking in the street isn’t one of them.

Since the poll started I’ve been researching the use of deadly force and it’s not a pretty picture. I’ve long been aware of discrepancies between the treatment of whites vs non-whites, but the last two weeks has forced me to realized how much white privilege has benefitted me and all white males.

Much of the future legal wrangling will center on the use of deadly force by Wilson, a Grand Jury will decide if charges are warranted.

Neither the patrol car or Wilson was equipped with a camera so we don’t have video or audio, leaving many questions about that day. Was there a struggle? Did Brown surrender? Did Brown go for Wilson’s gun? Assuming Brown did try to get Wilson’s gun, isn’t six shots excessive? Did Wilson follow proper police procedure? What could both men have done differently that wouldn’t have resulted in the death of Brown?   And what if Wilson had used pepper spray, stun gun, or a taser instead of his revolver?

I don’t know what officers carry on their belt, but I’d assume circumstances dictate when you’d pick one over the other. In late 2011 ’60 Minutes’ ran a piece on taster use:

The Taser sounds like the perfect law enforcement tool. Simple, effective and generally safe, it allows officers to subdue a suspect using electricity rather than resorting to blunt or deadly force. But a recent study found that some officers may be too quick to use the popular stun guns when conventional procedures would suffice. As David Martin reports, there’s growing concern that Tasers may be inflicting unnecessary pain and, in rare cases, lead to death. (Taser: An officer’s weapon of choice)

During the poll two white police officers shot a black man holding a knife.  I’ve watched the video numerous times, this seems like a perfect situation where the use of a taser would’ve been more appropriate. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson avoided the type of unrest that was happening in Ferguson by addressing it head on, not shutting out the media. I think those two officers also used excessive force.

Which two of the following officials has displayed the BEST leadership regarding Ferguson? (PICK 2) (290 total votes)

  1. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson 113 [38.97%]
  2. Unsure/no opinion 51 [17.59%]
  3. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon 43 [14.83%]
  4. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson 27 [9.31%]
  5. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch 14 [4.83%]
  6. Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal 12 [4.14%]
  7. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles 10 [3.45%]
  8. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar 9 [3.1%]
  9. Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed 8 [2.76%]
  10. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley 3 [1.03%]

Captain Ron Johnson has earned praise from everyone, it seems. Gov Nixon, though gaining the #3 spot, after unsure, has been praised and criticized.

There have been many calling for Bob McCulloch to recuse himself, but he refuses to step aside. If the Grand Jury doesn’t indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown McCulloch will be blamed. McCulloch easily won the Democratic primary just four days prior to the shooting, with no challenger in the November general election he’ll win another term unless there’s an independent or write-in candidate.

Not on my list was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, he’d been reporting up to that point. Since then we’ve seen Ald French assume a leadership role. His number of twitter followers @AntonioFrench have ballooned to more than 120,000. French now has nearly four times more Twitter followers than @MayorSlay. Of course, tweeting isn’t leadership. We’ll see if Ald French can unite factions in the city & region. If he can’t, I’m not sure anyone can.

— Steve Patterson

 

Michael Brown Tribute on Canfield Drive

August 25, 2014 Crime, Featured, Ferguson, St. Louis County Comments Off on Michael Brown Tribute on Canfield Drive

The funeral for Michael Brown, the teenager shot & killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, will be held today. Last week I finally made it down Canfield Drive to see the makeshift memorial to him.

Heading east on Canfield Dr I spotted the line of red roses in the center of the street.
Heading east on Canfield Dr I spotted the line of red roses in the center of the street.
The roses end at the spot where his body was left for four hours the afternoon Saturday August 9t, 2014
The roses end at the spot where his body was left for four hours the afternoon Saturday August 9t, 2014
Next to the sidewalk there are more items as a tribute to Michael Brown
Next to the sidewalk there are more items as a tribute to Michael Brown

My heart goes out to family & friends.

— Steve Patterson

 

Weekly Poll: Two Questions About Michael Brown and Ferguson MO

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

More than a week ago a young man lost his life, shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson:

His mother, Lesley McSpadden, said the shooting took place as her son was walking to his grandmother’s residence.

Piaget Crenshaw, 19, said she was waiting for a ride to work when she saw a police officer attempting to place Brown in the squad car.

She then said she saw the teen, hands in the air, attempt to flee. Several shots hit Brown as he ran, Crenshaw said. She complied with a request that she give photos of the scene to authorities. (stltoday)

In selecting this subject for the poll this week my hope is to gauge reader sentiment.

The first question this week is:

Which of the following do you think happened in Ferguson MO on Saturday Aug 9th?

  • Michael Brown, an innocent unarmed teenager; was murdered by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson.
  • Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, forcefully stole cigars from a convenience store a half mile away; was killed by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson who used excessive force
  • Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, forcefully stole cigars from a convenience store a half mile away; was killed by Ferguson PO Darren Wilson who used appropriate force
  • Unsure/No Opinion

Note that the above will be presented in random order  in the poll in the upper right sidebar on the desktop layout.

The second question is: Which two of the following officials has displayed the BEST leadership regarding Ferguson? (PICK 2) See poll for list, they’ll also be presented in a random order.

Please discuss in the comments below.

— Steve Patterson

 

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