It wouldn’t be Tuesday without the next installment in our ongoing, 26,741 part series, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? In this week’s episode we find a newly installed municipal judge in riot torn Ferguson, Missouri, who has come up with a jim-dandy idea which should get things sorted on the racial tension front in no time. Rather than going through the fuss and bother of chasing down criminals who may have committed crimes last summer, not to mention the risk of offending the public if you had the bad taste to actually prosecute someone, he’ll just toss out all the outstanding warrants and give everyone a fresh start. (CNN)
The municipal court judge in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday announced sweeping changes to the city’s court system, including an order to withdraw all arrest warrants issued in that city before December 31, 2014.
Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin, who was appointed in June, also changed the conditions for pretrial release. According to a press release put out by Ferguson, all defendants will be given new court dates with alternative penalties like payment plans or community service.
Those caught for minor traffic violations should be less likely to end up behind bars because of McCullin. Under the new policy, they won’t be arrested but instead will be released on their own recognizance and given another court date.
Oh, and did I mention that everyone with a suspended drivers license is going to have their privileges returned immediately? Everyone.
To a certain extent you can see cutting down significantly on the number of people who wind up in jail for nothing other than traffic offenses. Who goes to jail for a speeding ticket anyway? I think the Justice Department review did turn up some problems with the Ferguson municipal court and some corrections were clearly in order, but doesn’t this seem like a huge step beyond any sensible reforms? For example, if a traffic stop turns into a case of violence and resisting arrest, that’s still cause for a visit to the jail. Further, recent events in New York City and Baltimore should provide a lesson in what happens when you pull the reins back on the police too tightly. It’s part of the general broken windows theory if you think about it. Traffic stops in and of themselves aren’t terribly important, but they do provide probable cause to check things out and can lead to the discovery of far more serious crimes.
But they surely had some other warrants beyond those for people who were seen running a red light. What of the riots? What of the arson and the mass looting where dozens, if not hundreds of people were caught on camera robbing the local businesses? Are all of those warrants vacated also? This is assuming that they ever got around to issuing more than a few of them, anyway. As of March the police had released more than 400 photos and video clips of looters and racked up a grand total of ten arrests. There were, at the time, ten other suspects identified from the pictures and warrants had been issued. So are we to assume that this part time judge has essentially declared an amnesty on looting and arson?
This should send one heck of a message to the people interested in breaking the law. Don’t worry about the rules. All is forgiven so long as you don’t get mad at us.