Ferguson, Missouri – While controversy about the police killing of teenager Michael Brown has been the primary focus in Ferguson this year, the city’s government is also facing a massive budget crisis, which they are hoping to solve by ordering their police officers to write more tickets. Many residents in Ferguson have already pointed out that once this policy is implemented, it will strain the already high tensions between the community and the police.
In a telephone interview with Bloomberg News this week, Ferguson’s finance director, Jeffrey Blume explained that in order for the city’s government to stay above their budget, the police would have to write millions of dollars in tickets for small, non-violent infractions.
“There are a number of things going on in 2014 and one is a revenue shortfall that we anticipate making up in 2015. There’s about a million-dollar increase in public-safety fines to make up the difference,” Blume said.
Police generated revenue from writing tickets is already the city’s second larges source of revenue after sales taxes, and the money brought in through the police departments is expected to grow with these new guidelines.
“They said they weren’t going to go after poor people, so to speak, to fund their budget, but I guess that’s changed,” Tim Fischesser, executive director of the St. Louis Municipal League told Bloomberg.
Some state politicians are worried that this could contribute to further unrest so they are seeking to limit how much money the local government can draw from police generated revenue. A number of state senators have filed two bills that would put these types of limits on the local government in Ferguson.
“For Ferguson to respond to all of this and say that increasing ticketing was a good idea is outrageous,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Scott Sifton said.
According to Sifton, the bills will be voted on sometime after January 7th, and if approved the limits would not go into effect until at least August.
Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, also spoke in opposition of the new policies, saying that a strong focus on revenue generating does not make communities any safer.
“Increasing reliance on such fines is the wrong way to go, period. Residents and neighborhoods are safer when police can focus on public safety, not a municipality’s need to protect a revenue stream,” Zweifel said.