In Reform After Michael Brown Shooting, St. Louis County Court Revenues Down 39%


Police departments in St. Louis County dramatically backed off traffic enforcement, and municipal court revenues fell nearly 40 percent over the first seven months of this year, according to state court data analyzed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. One of the biggest turnarounds was in Ferguson, which the U.S. Department of Justice singled out in March for running its police department as if it were a collection agency for its municipal court. Data from the state court system indicated that Ferguson filed 1,330 traffic cases in its municipal court from January through July of this year, down from 7,031 in the same period of the year before. That's a decrease of 81 percent. Nontraffic cases, such as occupancy code violations, were down 86 percent.

Ferguson's municipal court saw its revenue fall by 58 percent compared to the same period last year. After the blistering DOJ report, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered Ferguson’s cases to be heard by a state appeals judge for about three months. The city then hired a retired St. Louis circuit judge, Donald McCuillin, as municipal judge. McCullin believes his effort to reduce or eliminate fines for the poor and offer nonmonetary penalties such as community service, were in part responsible for the drop in court revenue, which he called “a positive result.” Other municipalities seemed to be turning away en masse from the profit-oriented policing that drew international scorn in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting on Aug. 9, 2014. In total, the 81 municipal courts in St. Louis County saw a 39 percent decrease in the number of traffic cases filed, and a 38 percent decrease in money collected.

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