Free Minds & Free Markets

Ferguson Thinks It May Have to Raise Taxes in Order to Stop Abusing Citizens

Deal in the works with the Department of Justice.

The ending of Ferguson's abuse of fonts will have to be a separate negotiation.Credit: pasa47 / photo on flickrWe've known since March that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has looked at how the police and courts in Ferguson, Missouri, have behaved and found significant unconstitutional treatment of its citizens (particularly minorities), finding any excuse to cite or arrest people and then trying to milk them for money to fund its government.

Now, nine months later, The New York Times reports that a deal is approaching between the small St. Louis County suburb and the DOJ to resolve the problem. But there's a bit of a snag compared to how the DOJ announces deals with other cities to reform police behavior. Because a big chunk of Ferguson's sins involve the police and courts treating the citizens like piggy banks (as opposed to just the city leaders treating them that way, I guess), implementing oversight systems that also cost money are going to be a bit of a challenge. With very little revenue to work with, Ferguson leaders argue they'll have to raise taxes, and that will require a public vote:

The agreement, which would be filed in federal court, would require new training for police officers and, improved record-keeping, and would install a federal monitor to ensure those changes were made, officials said, one week after marathon negotiations that began in the morning and stretched past midnight.

"We have made tremendous progress. We're very close," Mayor James Knowles III said in a telephone interview. He said "small sticking points" remained, though he declined to describe those points or to provide details of items being negotiated.

The agreement would also require changes to the courts, but it's not clear what those will be as yet. Missouri has already passed a law trying to reduce the predation on residents by capping the percentage of a town's budget that can originate from traffic citations. That law has prompted a lawsuit by some of Ferguson's neighboring towns that engage in similar behavior, but didn't have the protest-invoking shooting of Michael Brown to force change. The Times notes how the dependence on fines is going to affect Ferguson's ability to fund reforms:

The price tag for Ferguson is uncertain, but according to a recent letter from the city, the cost of a federal monitor is estimated to be $350,000 in the first year. There will also be costs for training and equipment. The city had a $2.5 million operating deficit last year, and has been forced to tap into its reserves.

The deficit is partly because of the city's reliance on traffic fines and fees. Those collections fell by more than $1 million — nearly half — in the budget year during which Mr. Brown was killed and the city was upended by civil unrest, budget records show. And the cost of legal expenses and overtime pay jumped as the city contended with protests. "The city recognizes that it currently finds itself in perilous circumstances," an assistant city manager wrote in the city's current budget document.

Ferguson's City Council would have to get plan together to increase taxes by January in order to present it to its citizens for a vote in April. Read more here.

Photo Credit: pasa47 / photo on flickr

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the cost of a federal monitor is estimated to be $350,000 in the first year.

    WHEN WILL THEY DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE UNFUNDED FEDERAL MANDATES. That's quite a salary for simply sitting around being the most hated person in the police department. Maybe they could make up the money by not doing things that lead to riots.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I will be their federal monitor for $325,000 in the first year.

    There, you just saved $25,000.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    "Ferguson's per capita income of $21,000 ranks it 88th out of Missouri's 140 cities, according to, while its median household income of $36,645 is the state's 103rd highest."

    That's how awesome a job the federal monitor will do.

  • SimonJester||

    Wouldn't you cost them more, if they account for all the HR lawsuits and harassment complaints?

  • Kevin Sorbos Manful Locks||

    I bid $324,000. Get undercut, sucker!.

    On a completely unrelated note, I think that the minimum salary of federal monitors should be $324,000/year.

  • Drake||

    I think I'd rather catch a beating.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    How much more of a disconnect before it occurs to anyone that the simplest solution is to fire every city employee and leave folks alone.

  • Butler||

    Maybe an in-between step would be to simply stop enforcing victimless crime laws (namely drugs, but also prostitution and other BS). If a police force were only pursuing crimes with honest-to-God victims, there would be much less negative interaction with the public to worry about. As a side benefit, the police force could be reduced to cover the additional costs/lost revenues.

  • IceTrey||

    Oh no, can't reduce the size of the police department. They may have to get jobs where they are actually held accountable.

  • MokFarin||

    No, Greenpeace and other NGOs still need thugs and patsies. They'll be fine.

  • IceTrey||

    Disincorporate and become part of St Louis.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm sure St. Louis would love that.

  • Rt. Hon. Judge Woodrow Chipper||

    God forbid they cut spending.

  • Juice||

    I think I heard something that sounded like "Fuck you. Cut spending."

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Raising taxes IS abusing citizens.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The price tag for Ferguson is uncertain, but according to a recent letter from the city, the cost of a federal monitor is estimated to be $350,000 in the first year.

    Is that all? When will the noose of austerity be removed from the neck of democracy?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    We should pitch in and buy them (the subjects) some wood chippers.

  • 3||

    Investing in woodchippers leads to long term savings. Proven fact.

  • PapayaSF||

  • Sevo||

    Hey, avoiding killing people is expensive!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Look, there's nothing left to cut! Nothing left to cut!!1!!1

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    How much was Ferguson spending in lawsuits and insurance for same every year?

  • Abe Froman||

    I can think of a way to fund this easily without raising taxes.
    Just get rid of the officers who've had over thirty citizen complaints against them.
    From news reports I think that would be a significant number and the city would be getting rid of a large source of the problems its facing.


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