Ferguson cited for not submitting traffic-stop race data

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastProtestors block traffic outside the Ferguson

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastProtestors block traffic outside the Ferguson

Ferguson's police department is among more than a dozen in Missouri that illegally missed a deadline for submitting to the state racial data relating to traffic stops, putting them at risk of losing state funding, Missouri's top law enforcer said Tuesday.

Attorney General Chris Koster's callout of Ferguson and 16 other law enforcement agencies statewide came hours before the St. Louis suburb's City Council was to hold its first public session since a U.S. Department of Justice report last week accused its police force and municipal court system of racial bias.

Racist emails included in the DOJ report led to the firing of the city clerk and resignation of two police officers in Ferguson, which has been beset by unresent since a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, in August. And on Monday, an appellate judge was assigned to overhaul the municipal court system.

Koster said the deadline for divulging the racial makeup of people stopped for alleged traffic offenses was March 1. The data is used to compile a yearly report about any racial disparities involving traffic stops.

Messages seeking comment Tuesday from a Ferguson city spokesman were not immediately returned. Ferguson city leaders also remained mum about whether more personnel changes may come during Tuesday's meeting.

The U.S. Justice Department's report found racial profiling and discrimination in the police department. It also found a profit-driven municipal court system that investigators said made money largely at the expense of minority residents.

Municipal Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer resigned Monday and was immediately replaced by the Missouri Supreme Court with a Missouri Appeals Court Judge Roy Richter, who will temporarily oversee local court cases starting next week. He also was empowered to reform court policies to “restore the integrity of the system.”

Mayor James Knowles III said Ferguson would begin seeking Brockmeyer's permanent successor on Tuesday, but he declined further comment. However, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell warned that other changes may be coming.

“Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,” she said in a statement.

Whether other changes will be imposed in Ferguson remains unclear. The City Council held a closed-door meeting Monday, gathering in public only long enough to adjourn. City Manager John Shaw was escorted to his vehicle by a police officer afterward, though it wasn't unclear why.

The state Supreme Court also assigned staff from the state court administrator's office to aid Richter in reviewing Ferguson's municipal court practices. Richter is to assume his new role on March 16.

Ferguson has been under state and federal scrutiny since police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown, which prompted protests in the St. Louis area and across the nation.

A St. Louis County grand jury concluded in November that no charges would be filed against Wilson, who has since resigned. The Justice Department concurred last week, saying Wilson acted in self-defense.

But the Justice Department said in a separate report that Ferguson's police and court systems functioned as a money-making enterprise that heightened tensions among residents. The report noted that Ferguson was counting on revenues from fines and fees to generate $3.1 million, or nearly a quarter of its $13.3 million budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

The federal report also cited several instances in which Ferguson's municipal judge, court clerk or city prosecutor helped “fix” tickets for colleagues and friends, evidence of what investigators called “a double standard grounded in racial stereotyping.”

An attorney for Brockmeyer said the judge had been “fair and impartial” as a part-time municipal judge and that the court clerk bore the primary responsibility for day-to-day operations of the court.

Messages seeking comment from the former court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, were not returned. Twitty was fired Thursday, and the two police officers also allegedly involved in the racist emails, Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd, resigned Friday.

Police Chief Tom Jackson remains in charge of the 54-member police force.

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