Ferguson officials vow to reform police and courts after Michael Brown protests
By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) – The city of Ferguson, Missouri, said on Monday it would reform its police and courts after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager last month roiled the St. Louis suburb and set off race-related protests.
The Ferguson City Council, which will hold its first public meeting on Tuesday since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a white policeman, said new laws would reduce the city budget’s dependence on court fines and give citizens more oversight of the police department.
Following Brown’s shooting, residents of the mostly black town with a mostly white government and police department complained about years of racial profiling and onerous traffic fines that affected mostly poor and African-American residents.
“The overall goal of these changes is to improve trust within the community and increase transparency, particularly within Ferguson’s courts and police department,” Council member Mark Byrne said in a statement.
The City Council, which consists of six members and the mayor, was expected to hold Tuesday’s meeting at an area church at 7 p.m. to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd. Protesters have been demanding the ouster of both Mayor James Knowles III and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.
The city said it would abolish several administrative fees that affect low-income persons, such as the $25 fee for towing vehicles, and set up payment programs for defendants having trouble paying fines for traffic offenses.
Officials are under fire for how they handled the aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting. The council canceled its last regular meeting – the fourth Tuesday of August – as the town seethed with sometimes-violent protests and was placed under a state of emergency by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
Protests have continued both in Ferguson and around the country in recent days to demand change in what demonstrators say is a long history of police intimidation and abuse of blacks in the St. Louis area and many other U.S. cities.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Eric Beech)
[Image: Police officers keep watch while demonstrators (not pictured) protest the death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 12, 2014. By Mario Anzuoni for Reuters]