Nixon Signs Municipal Court Reforms

(AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday limiting cities’ ability to profit from traffic tickets and court fines – the first significant step taken by state lawmakers to address concerns raised after the police shooting of a black, unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson nearly a year ago.
Nixon announced the bill in an ornate courtroom of the Missouri Court of Appeals in downtown St. Louis, near the suburb where white Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, setting off protests that occasionally turned violent.
Brown was walking in the street, not driving, when he was stopped by Wilson last August and scuffled with the officer. A U.S. Justice Department investigation cleared Wilson of wrongdoing in Brown’s death, and a state grand jury declined to bring charges.
Supporters of the legislation have said it will address the predatory revenue-generating practices of Ferguson’s police and court system that were detailed in a Justice Department report.
Some protesters said the generally white police force’s treatment of the predominantly black community led to longstanding frustrations and racial tensions. The use of police to collect revenue through traffic fines and court fees added to that distrust, according to some residents and legal advocates.
“This landmark legislation will return our municipal courts to their intended purpose: serving our citizens and protecting the public,” said Nixon, who was flanked by lawmakers and black residents. “That means, under this bill, cops will stop being revenue agents and go back to being cops – investigating crimes, protecting the public and keeping dangerous criminals off the streets.”

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