Ferguson Commission tackles municipal court operations and police traffic stops

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Monday's Ferguson Commission meeting took aim on the municipal court system in the St. Louis area.  Citizens and experts had a chance to weigh in with complaints and solutions.

Some suggested the state should cap how much money any municipality collects.  Some suggested replacing fees with community service.  Another idea was to create a sliding scale system so that fee amounts are linked to income levels.   Some suggested providing legal representation to offenders.

Thomas Harvey is with Arch City Defenders.  The group represents poor and homeless offenders.  He gave an example of the choices one of his clients faces.

"I have a client who was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia," said Harvey.   "For the low, low price of a thousand dollars, he can turn that into a littering ticket.  This is a system that works for rich people and doesn't work for poor people, and it doesn't work for black people in our region but it works for judges, lawyers and prosecutors here who make a living off of it."

Some grew frustrated over the discussion Monday night and felt more action needed to be taken.

"So when are we going to stop wasting our time talking about the things we have always talked about, and start getting down to the nitty-gritty and doing what we got to do?" Tina Cramer asked the commission.

"There are things we need to go to the state legislature with, said Ferguson Commission Co-Chairman Rev. Starsky Wilson.  "We're going to go there starting in January when the issues are ready, when we know we have enough community input and we've studied them enough to be thoughtful about what the community has to say."

The commission has until September 15th, 2015 to make its recommendations.​

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