The Justice Department has issued a blistering report on the criminal justice system in Ferguson, Missouri. At BuzzFeed, Adam Serwerexplains how the system works in Ferguson, quoting at length from the report.
You're probably aware that Ferguson used the cops and courts to generate tax revenues. How extreme were the fines? From the report:
[O]ur investigation found instances in which the court charged $302 for a single Manner of Walking violation; $427 for a single Peace Disturbance violation; $531 for High Grass and Weeds; $777 for Resisting Arrest; and $792 for Failure to Obey, and $527 for Failure to Comply, which officers appear to use interchangeably.
Now, here's the thing: Isn't this the sort of thing right-wingers ought to be complaining about? Government charging you a three-figure fine forwalking wrong, or not cutting your grass properly? Aren't some of these an awful lot like taxes? Don't right-wingers hate taxes? Don't they hate government attempts to micromanage citizens' lives? Isn't turning "high grass and weeds" into a rime punishable by large fines a sort of aesthetic political correctness?
And doesn't the functioning of Ferguson as a municipality reinforce everything right-wingers always say about government efficiency? Again, from the report:
It is often difficult for an individual who receives a municipal citation or summons in Ferguson to know how much is owed, where and how to pay the ticket, what the options for payment are, what rights the individual has, and what the consequences are for various actions or oversights....
And many times, FPD officers omit critical information from the citation, which makes it impossible for a person to determine the specific nature of the offense charged, the amount of the fine owed, or whether a court appearance is required or some alternative method of payment is available....
Even when the court window is technically open, we have seen people standing at the window waiting for a response to their knocks for long periods of time, sometimes in inclement weather -- even as court staff sat inside the police department tending to their normal duties.
A typical Kafkaesque government bureaucracy!
And of course, if you don't respond, you can owe an additional big fine on charges of "Failure to Appear." You can even be arrested. It's like something out of Stalinist commie Russia! Right, conservatives?
Oh, but of course....
Available data show that, of those actually arrested by FPD only because of an outstanding municipal warrant, 96% are African American.
Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson’s population.
So I guess it doesn't matter that this is oppressive Big Government using jackbooted-thug powers to restrict citizens' FREEDOM!!!! and shovel more and more cash into the insatiable maw of the bureaucracy -- because, y'know, that stuff doesn't matter when it happens to Those People.