Tickets replace taxes in lives of urban poor

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

Protest has long been an important strand woven into a cloak of liberty and independence that collectively shrouds all of us as Americans.

After the non-indictment decision of officer Darren Wilson for the killing of teenager Mike Brown, marches and protests erupted across the country resulting in riots and destruction of property.

Just like in all of America, Ferguson has guidelines in place to determine how police should interact with the public. In this case, and in many others, those guidelines do not seem to matter when the subjects are black.

In the small Missouri town, blacks outnumber whites 2-to-1 but are arrested at a rate of 4-to-1, according to Missouri Department of Public safety statistics. From January to April of 2014, 217 blacks were arrested and only 27 whites.

Blacks made up 92 percent of traffic arrests in Ferguson while only 7 percent were white. The same statistical data shows whites are 13 percent more likely to have contraband when stopped. Even when the data is in black and white, black people still make up 86 percent of all traffic stops in that community.

Fines and court fees generate a large piece of the city’s budget.

The city saw a 44 percent increase last year in fees collected in tickets, to the tune of $2 million. The city is too poor to support itself on tax dollars so they find creative ways to bilk the residents out of much needed revenue.

Over-policing low-income communities results in tickets becoming warrants. In 2013, the city issued 32,975 warrants.

For a city with a population of 21,000, it was easy to dissect life there and relate those practices to what people have been complaining about for decades.

For many, this is their indoctrination into the criminal justice system. Now a community is labeled as high-crime for housing so many warranted citizens — people who only committed the initial crime of being black.

The label gives the green light for enhanced law enforcement techniques.

It gets tiresome using statistics to justify my decency and humanity. For what? So I can be killed on a whim for holding a toy gun in a store, or walking down the wrong street at the wrong time.

Will it be me that has the “Face of a demon,” next time, or the “Hulk- like strength,” that elicits enough fear to allow my children to be robbed of their father? Will my body be allowed to remain on the street hours as an example of what can happen to people who get out of line?

If it is, and who can really say what crosses the legal line anymore, 12-year-old kids are killed within seconds of an officer arriving, while police are allowed to beat women on the freeway in broad daylight.

With Trayvon Martin they wanted witnesses, Mike Brown, they wanted video, and now the recorded death of an unarmed non-violent Eric Garner shows the lack of empathy the system has for black existence. No justice was served in any of these cases.