Real problem in Ferguson: Policing for revenue, not safety – to pay for expensive big government

Real problem in Ferguson: Policing for revenue, not safety – to pay for expensive big government

[Ed. – Not a bad case, if one that needs fleshing out.]

The Department of Justice’s “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department”…is hardly unassailable. As Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald and many others have noted, the “disparate impact” criterion on which the report heavily relies compares the number of police interactions with blacks to the black population, when the meaningful statistic is the number of police interactions compared to the number of black lawbreakers. The report pointedly neglects that question. …

But what the material in the report reveals is less a culture of racial animus than one of predatory government: “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices,” states the report, “are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” In the interest of expanding its treasury, Ferguson has employed its police department — 58 officers, policing a town of 21,000 — as an enforcer of the myriad municipal regulations that, rigorously enforced, nickel-and-dime the citizenry to the local government’s benefit.

In 2010, the city’s finance director encouraged Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson to “ramp up” ticket-writing to help mitigate an anticipated sales-tax shortfall. Not only did citations increase, but so did the issuance of “companion charges” — for example, charges for speeding and failure to maintain a single lane, to accompany DWI charges. …

Far more alarming in Ferguson than whether vestigial racism animates a policeman here and there is the perversion of the law, and of the positions of those sworn to protect it, to buck up the treasury on the backs of the most vulnerable, whoever they may be.

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