Much has been made about the divide between law enforcement and citizens recently in the wake of Ferguson, Missouri. I think it’s understandable that many of us have difficulty making sense of the violent reaction to police and the deep-seated mistrust in some communities.
Research from a nonprofit group of public defenders in Missouri may shed some light on one of the factors — money.
It’s referred to as “for-profit policing” and the numbers are staggering. Imagine you lived in a community where the AVERAGE is 1.5 cases and three warrants per household. Fines and court fees for the year in this city of just 21,000 people totaled $2,635,400.
This might drastically change the way you view a police officer in your neighborhood. Are they there to protect and serve or is this just another way to generate revenue for the city?
It’s one thing to set up speed traps, it’s another thing entirely to target poor people with monetary fines they can’t pay, and then throw them in jail for failure to pay. Then fine them again.
The end result is a person with a criminal record, jail time and an unpaid debt to the city. This directly impacts his or her ability to find and keep a job, which in many cases starts the cycle all over again.
And you wonder why some communities see police as the problem, not the answer.