you look nice today.
Started by Anna Karina, August 18, 2014, 05:39:59 PM
Quote from: tinybitsofheart on August 01, 2014, 06:53:17 AMkinda weird how the earth continues to spin on its axis and everything eventually dies even when you don't want it to dang
Quote from: Rapture Ready Blowhard on August 19, 2014, 06:57:41 PMhttps://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/08/in-defense-of-the-ferguson-riots/Personally, I think even the looters have been getting a bad rap and this Jacobin piece does a good job at explaining why.
QuoteThere are 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, and more in the surrounding counties. All but a few have their own police force, mayor, city manager and town council, and 81 have their own municipal court. To put that into perspective, consider Jackson County, Mo., which surrounds Kansas City. It is geographically larger than St. Louis County and has about two-thirds the population. Yet Jackson County has just 19 municipalities, and just 15 municipal courts — less than a quarter of municipalities and courts in St. Louis County.Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis's light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing "saggy pants," business license violations and vague infractions such as "disturbing the peace" or "affray" that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations. In a white paper released last month (PDF), the ArchCity Defenders found a large group of people outside the courthouse in Bel-Ridge who had been fined for not subscribing to the town's only approved garbage collection service. They hadn't been fined for having trash on their property, only for not paying for the only legal method the town had designated for disposing of trash."These aren't violent criminals," says Thomas Harvey, another of the three co-founders of ArchCity Defenders. "These are people who make the same mistakes you or I do — speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, forgetting to get your car inspected on time. The difference is that they don't have the money to pay the fines. Or they have kids, or jobs that don't allow them to take time off for two or three court appearances. When you can't pay the fines, you get fined for that, too. And when you can't get to court, you get an arrest warrant."
QuoteUntil recently, the Florissant court was one of many that had barred outsiders from its proceedings. After critics like the ArchCity Defenders pointed out that this violated the Missouri Constitution, a circuit court judge ordered these towns to change their policies. Defense attorneys say some courts still haven't gotten the message. But in Florissant, the city council had a particularly odd response to the order. Town officials claimed the old courtroom was too small to accommodate all the defendants and attorneys, plus journalists, families, and observers. In addition to moving its municipal court to a gymnasium, just last week the council voted to add a $10 fee to every ordinance violation to fund a new, larger courthouse.After all the recent national attention on Ferguson, local attorneys are floored. "It's just completely tone deaf," says Khazaeli. "They got caught violating the law. So in response they're going to build themselves a new courthouse, and they're going to finance it on the backs of the poor. It's incredible."Harvey says there's a much easier way to address the crowded courthouse problem. "They could just hold more court sessions. That would easily take care of the overcrowding. It would also make life a little easier for the people who have to come to court. But that would cost the city money. So instead they're just going to slap a new tax on the poor."
QuoteIncidentally, Beverly Hills, Missouri has a population of 571. Its City Hall and police station share a building with a pharmacy. Yet in 2013, the town handed out 3,250 traffic tickets, and issued another 1,085 citations for violations of non-traffic ordinances. Total revenue generated by the town's municipal court: $221,164, or $387 for each of its residents.
QuoteIn 2011, Morgan had to show up for municipal court in Hazelwood to appear for some traffic violations. He had been to the court before, and recalled that on a previous occasion he had been told by a police officer that children weren't permitted inside. Having just picked his kids up from school, Morgan spotted the girlfriend of a friend in the parking lot and pulled his truck up next to her. He asked her to keep an eye on his kids while he was in court. She agreed.As Morgan walked toward the courthouse a police officer asked him if the kids in the truck were his. He replied that they were. The officer asked him why he had left them alone. Morgan replied that he hadn't, and that the woman parked next to him had agreed to watch them. By now, Morgan's friend had returned, and started to leave."I can't really blame them," Morgan says from his home in Hazelwood. "No one around here wants to attract attention. You don't want a police officer knowing who you are."Morgan pleaded with the police officer to flag down his friends, who he said would vouch for him. He says the officer then threatened to Taser him. Morgan put up his hands. The officer then arrested him for child endangerment.
QuoteDrive along an approximately 10-mile stretch along the east-west Route 115 (also known as the Natural Bridge Road), and you'll cross through sixteen different municipalities. At some points along the route, you'll find one town the right side of the road, and a separate town on the left. There are similar stretches along St. Charles Rock Road (also known as Route 180) to the south, along I-70, and along the I-170 bypass. The town boundaries are drawn in such a way that each municipality in the area gets a stretch of highway, which can be a lucrative source of revenue. "Theoretically, you could be driving home from work on this road, and if you have expired tags or no inspection sticker, you could get pulled over 16 different times in 16 different towns, and written up for the same violations each time," Harvey says.
QuoteIn 2000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in a series of articles that motorists passing through the tiny town of Bel-Ridge (also on Natural Bridge Road) were getting pulled over for running a red light at an intersection where the light had previously always flashed yellow. The complaining motorists reported seeing the light suddenly change to red while they were in the middle of the intersection. After several complaints, an engineer with the Missouri Department of transportation went out to observe what was going on.As it turns out, in 1998 Bel-Ridge police had received permission from the DOT to install switch at the light that allowed an officer to manually convert it to red. The switch was installed so an officer could allow children from a nearby school to safely cross the road. But the engineer witnessed police switching the light to red when there were no children present at the intersection at all, just as groups of cars were passing through. Another officer would then pull one or more cars over and issue them tickets.
Quote"I had a buddy who was written up on a zoning violations because he had a car up on cinder blocks in his yard. He ended up spending 30 days in jail. It was in this tiny town where the court is literally held in a double-wide trailer. I thought it was just an anomaly. I quickly realized that sort of thing is common."
QuoteOn the same night I attended the municipal court session in Florissant, I stopped by the town of Cool Valley just as court was winding down. Cool Valley is a town of 1,194 people. It is 84.5 percent black. Last year the court issued 1,871 arrest warrants. More incredibly, there are another 5,998 warrants from previous years still pending in Cool Valley, or more than five for every resident. In 2013, the Cool Valley Municipal Court collected $375,425 in fines, or $314 per resident. That's about 34.5 percent of the town's annual budget.
QuoteOne of those pending warrants was for "Jack" (he asked that I not use his real name), a black man who looked to be in his 60s whom I met briefly at the Cool Valley courthouse. I noticed Jack as he was chatting through a teller's window with the court clerk. He was getting increasingly frustrated. I followed him outside and asked why he had been in court. He said he had recently been stopped by a police officer. He hadn't been issued a citation for the stop, but a search of his name apparently showed a warrant stemming from a 20-year-old speeding ticket. With late fees and added fines, prosecutors said he now owed $615.But he said he was angry because no one could show him the original ticket. They could only point to the warrant. He believes it was a mistake, and wondered why the warrant wouldn't have shown up the other times he's been stopped over the last 20 years. But the court officers had no time to argue with him. They handed him a piece of paper showing what he owes, with instructions for his payment plan. He is to come back to court each month and pay $50 until the full amount is paid off. If he misses a month, they'll put out another warrant for his arrest.
Quote"I've asked prosecutors for a client's file and they've flat turned me down," said one local attorney. "They'll say 'Here's a list of his warrants, but we can't show them to you. Just trust us.' Or they'll just staple a blank form to a manilla envelope, write my client's name on it, and call that his 'file.' They're giving me the runaround, and I'm an attorney. So you can imagine what happens when people try to work within the system by themselves."
QuoteBlacks make up 96 percent of Pine Lawn's 3,216 residents and have been well represented among the town's elected officials. But that hasn't stopped the town from soaking its residents in fines, fees, and warrants. In 2013, Pine Lawn police issued 17,155 traffic citations, or more than five per resident. During the protests in Ferguson, several media reports expressed alarm that there were about two arrest warrants pending in the town's municipal court for every resident. As of June 30 of 2013, there were 23,457 arrest warrants pending in Pine Lawn Municipal Court, or about 7.3 per resident. The court brought in more than $1.8 million for the town, or around $576 per resident. That's about 4.5 percent of the average Pine Lawn resident's annual income. (Pine Lawn is far from the worst. The aforementioned town of Country Club Hills has over 33,000 outstanding arrest warrants, or an astonishing 26 per resident.)
QuotePine Lawn has been plagued by incompetence, corruption, and infighting among its public officials. A 2011 report (PDF) by the Missouri State Auditor found that in violation of state law, the town "does not have written contracts with some of its service providers, such as attorneys, payroll services, and collectors of electronic fines and court costs." The audit found that the town regularly violates the state's open meetings law, and paid salary advances to aldermen and other city employees, also in violation of state law.
QuoteOn another occasion, Morgan says he and some friends had gone out to dinner. He returned to his shop later that night to pick some things up. A police officer saw the lights on and demanded to see Morgan's permit. (You need a separate permit to operate a business after dark.)"I told him that I wasn't working, I was just picking a couple things up. He said I was talking back to him, and that if I kept it up, he'd shut down my shop." The officer ended up having two of Morgan's vehicles towed. He had to pay $200 to get them back.
QuoteIn 2012, Morgan was working on his truck at his mother's house when he heard a loud boom. He assumed it was a car or lawn mower backfiring and continued working. A short time later, he was driving his truck with a friend when a police officer pulled them over and emerged with his gun drawn. Soon, more squad cars showed up, 11 in all."A whiteshirt then showed up, and said someone fitting my description had been seen committing a burglary," Morgan says. "They said they saw me kicking down a door, and then my friend driving my truck as we drove away. I had been working on my truck all morning, and my friend had never driven it."Morgan and his friend were arrested, though the police claimed they had been detained, not jailed. "I couldn't leave, so I'm not sure what the difference is," he says. After about three hours, the police let both men go without an explanation. Morgan's truck had been towed. He says that when he got it back, the seats and upholstery had been ripped out, as if someone had been searching for guns or drugs. Morgan actually did have a gun. He also had a legal concealed carry permit for it."They told me they'd have to 'run' the gun to see if it was stolen or had been used in a crime, and that it could take up to 30 days. I told them I hadn't been accused of any crime. When I tried to get it back later, an officer told me they'd have to keep it longer because of my record."Morgan says when he replied that he had only been convicted of traffic violations, the officer noted that he had recently been arrested for burglary — the same burglary for which the police had wrongly arrested him, confiscated the gun, and released him three hours later. Morgan just got his gun back in February, nearly three years after it was confiscated.