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One County, 90 police forces
September 3, 2014 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Drive along an approximately 10-mile stretch along the east-west Route 115 (also known as the Natural Bridge Road), and you’ll cross through sixteen different municipalities. “Theoretically, you could be driving home from work on this road, and if you have expired tags or no inspection sticker, you could get pulled over 16 different times in 16 different towns, and written up for the same violations each time”. How St. Louis County, Missouri profits from poverty.
posted by T.D. Strange (71 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 


I think it's the dichotomy between how hard people in poverty have to work to keep their heads above water, and the "we're cutting your benefits to encourage hard working families" line with which the state benefit system is being dismantled. The legal system is overwhelmed with people in hard straits, and the response is generally to make access to defence more difficult and ways to get stuck in there more plentiful.

The lack of humanity, as the dominant theme of 21st century Western politics, is carborundum under the eyelids of my soul...
posted by Devonian at 1:16 PM on September 3 [9 favorites]


“How The Ferguson Protests Landed Taurean Russell In Three Different Jails,” Matt Sledge, The Huffington Post, 03 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 1:19 PM on September 3


This may be a dumb question, but how does that system happen ? (multiple "townships" in a single county, each with their own force). Is it a state law set-up ? Everywhere I've lived (big city and small town, different states), there's only a single county police force. (Or county police and county sheriff, where sheriff does jail/court house duty/summonses, and county does policing).
posted by k5.user at 1:32 PM on September 3


I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who rack up a bunch of speeding tickets, but this is some bullshit right here:

"To simply reside in St. Louis County, you have to register your residence with the local government."

$5 says that not only is it used to "enforce anachronistic laws prohibiting cohabitation of unmarried couples." but to keep out undesirables and "the gays".
posted by madajb at 1:35 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


This may be a dumb question, but how does that system happen ? (multiple "townships" in a single county, each with their own force). Is it a state law set-up ?

Every little housing development incorporated in an effort to keep out blacks through strict zoning laws.
Because whites kept moving further away from the city, you eventually end up with dozens of tiny little towns trailing in their wake.
posted by madajb at 1:37 PM on September 3 [12 favorites]


The weird thing about all those former zoned-white towns is that they're now almost entirely majority black - but are still run by white power structures that live somewhere else. Truly bizarre, and a very bad way to run a stable community.
posted by Naberius at 1:39 PM on September 3 [7 favorites]


Ironically, Radley Balko would probably not want to implement the only possible solution -- the federal government breaking up the system for systemic civil rights violations.
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


The first thought I had was "why not make traffic courts open Tuesday through Saturday" or something like that, so there'd be an option for getting court dates that wasn't during business hours. But you'd undoubtedly have a huge demand for those Saturday court dates, and the people who couldn't somehow make it onto the docket for those dates would get screwed. I'm not sure it'd be an improvement in the fairness department.

I wonder how many people's entry into legal hell is via automotive infractions and whether -- as I tend to suspect -- there's less of an impact in areas where there's viable public transportation. I don't have a ton of sympathy for someone who acknowledges that they have a problem with speeding and then continues doing it, any more than I do someone who acknowledges they have a problem with drinking and driving and continues to do it, but it certainly sucks that there's such a short list of places in the US where going without a car and still being an economically useful adult is even a viable option.

The bad-to-worse moments in a lot of people's lives, and I don't mean just the story in the post, but situations I've seen happen in real life, tend to occur when a bad-but-manageable problem like reckless driving or a DUI turns into a driving-suspended, or another DUI, or some sort of probation or conditional-release violation, and from there it's pretty much off into the whirling blades of the machine.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:45 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


One County, 90 police forces

In contrast, there are countries with one police force. Country, not county.
posted by anonymisc at 1:46 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


The first thought I had was "why not make traffic courts open Tuesday through Saturday" or something like that, so there'd be an option for getting court dates that wasn't during business hours.

I think the system is so fundamentally fucked from the foundations that practical solutions for individual problems aren't going to solve anything long term. All the incentives are set-up to rat-fuck the poor.
posted by empath at 1:54 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


MetroLink violations (not paying the fare on the city’s light rail system)

This is one of the weirdest fucking things about STL public transport. The trains don't actually have ticket-takers, either human or robotic. What you're supposed to do instead is buy a ticket on the honor system, and validate it at a little machine near the train.

Then, Metro security guards will amble around and through the trains, asking randomly to see people's tickets, and if you don't have a validated ticket, you get slapped with a huge fine. But the security guards are kind of rare (I've only been asked to show my ticket like once every 50 times I ride the Metro), which has got to have the side effect of encouraging people to not buy tickets regularly.

So you can get on the train for free, you can ride the train for free, but maybe one time out of every fifty, you'll get caught and have to pay a huge fine.

It's a very strange system that seems almost like it was designed to encourage poor people to literally gamble on being law-abiding vs law-breaking.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:55 PM on September 3 [27 favorites]


how does that system happen ? (multiple "townships" in a single county, each with their own force).

Different states handle administrative subdivisions differently. Some do almost all services, including public safety stuff, at the town level, while others do it at the county level. Sometimes it's a mixture. I'm actually surprised that Missouri does it at the town level because it's my experience that most large states do things county-by-county, while town-level stuff is a weirdo New England / tiny-state thing, but I guess there are always exceptions.

E.g. in Connecticut, where I used to live, pretty much everything governmental is done at either the Town/City or State level. You pay property tax to the town, the town handles garbage collection, it may or may not have a police force, it will have or contract for the fire department, it will repair the local roads and maintain parks and will either run its own schools or have an agreement with surrounding towns to run schools jointly. The counties are historical and basically have no governmental apparatus attached to them anymore. (Small exception is that the Superior Court districts tend to follow old county boundaries, but they aren't really governmental units that you care about day-to-day.)

In contrast, Virginia does everything at the County (or independent city, which is functionally the same as a county) level. There are townships and hamlets and little crossroads with local names and post offices below that, but they don't have any governmental apparatus attached to them; they are literally just lines on a map today. The county you live in is what matters, and it's what you pay taxes to and what runs the schools and police and garbage collection, etc.

I think the county system is more common, nationally, because the town-by-town system does result in a lot of redundant effort on the local level, but good luck getting that to change in places where it exists.

What I'm surprised at, having lived in a place that used the town system, is that they each maintain their own police forces. Most little towns in New England (again, that being where my experience is) don't bother to do that, and either have joint police forces or they contract with the state to have the state police force provide that service, in order to avoid running it themselves. That's what looks ... suspicious about the whole St. Louis County thing; that there are a lot of towns and local governments doesn't seem as odd to me as the proliferation of police forces specifically. It speaks to a certain preoccupation with law enforcement that is separate from the governmental structure per se.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:56 PM on September 3 [7 favorites]


but this is some bullshit right here:

"To simply reside in St. Louis County, you have to register your residence with the local government."

Did you catch the part about the town that set up a manual switch on a traffic light, with one officer changing it from yellow to red while cars were going through, and another right down the road ticketing people for running the "red"?
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:58 PM on September 3 [7 favorites]


how does that system happen ? (multiple "townships" in a single county, each with their own force). Is it a state law set-up ?

Where I live (Indiana) we have a county sheriff. In addition, every incorporated town or city in the county has their own police department. The sheriff more-or-less has jurisdiction anywhere in the county, but stays primarily outside the towns and cities. And, in addition to those groups, we also have the state police, who primarily patrols the highways and state roads all across the state.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


So you can get on the train for free, you can ride the train for free, but maybe one time out of every fifty, you'll get caught and have to pay a huge fine.

This is basically how transit works near me.
(as an additional 'screw you', the fare is $1.50 and the machines don't give change...)

But the absolute max fine is $250, so if you go 3 months or so of daily riding without buying a ticket, you're ahead of the game.
posted by madajb at 2:02 PM on September 3


It's a very strange system that seems almost like it was designed to encourage poor people to literally gamble on being law-abiding vs law-breaking.

I had no idea they had this in the U.S., but it's how the subways work all over Europe. I remember thinking the exact same thing when I was wherever the hell it was I saw this originally. I suspect it's somehow cheaper than actually having the infrastructure (locking gates, etc.) to make sure only people with tickets are allowed in.

One of my favorite movies, Kontroll, is about/named after those people who check you for tickets.
posted by griphus at 2:03 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


Greg Nog, I just got back from visiting portland Oregon and I think they have the same system set up there.
posted by rebent at 2:03 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


It's a very strange system that seems almost like it was designed to encourage poor people to literally gamble on being law-abiding vs law-breaking.

That's actually a pretty common system that seems pretty advantageous for bus transit.

Though...

Disadvantages include potentially higher rate of fare evasion, reduced security on station platforms when no barrier is used, increased potential of racial profiling and other unequal enforcement as "likely fare evaders" are targeted, and regularly exposing passengers to unpleasant confrontational situations when a rider without the proper proof is detained and removed from the vehicle.
posted by ghharr at 2:04 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


In the town of Berkeley, for example, new tenants must obtain an occupancy permit from the Inspections Department of the City of Berkeley. A permit costs $20, and requires a valid driver’s license or identification card. If your license has been suspended due to an outstanding warrant, you can’t move in. A permit includes the names of the people legally allowed to live at the residence. If you want to add additional names or change a name, it’s an additional $25 and a signed authorization from the landlord. And again, you’ll need an ID.

This is just insane. Just horribly insane.

Quinn’s client, for example, was the victim in a domestic abuse incident. But when the police arrived, they checked her occupancy permit, which only allowed for one person to reside at the apartment. The officers then cited the woman and her boyfriend $74 each for violating the permit.

oh that's totally legit, that's real good way to uphold law and order and protect people

I have rarely been more grateful that I have grown up not only in relative privilege but that it was in cities with more freedom and options: public transit, pedestrian-accessible, no ID laws, accessible DMVs for getting IDs.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:04 PM on September 3 [12 favorites]


As they hear their name, they move to the back of a new line at the far right side of the gym. That line leads to an assistant prosecutor, who is seated behind a table by herself. They then move left along the row of tables to chief prosecutor Brockmeyer, who is seated next to the judge. The prosecutors and judge aren’t even hearing the same cases at the same time.

And then my brain exploded.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:07 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


Did you catch the part about the town that set up a manual switch on a traffic light, with one officer changing it from yellow to red while cars were going through, and another right down the road ticketing people for running the "red"?

Yeah, reminded me of red light cameras whose yellow period gets shorter and shorter over the months.
Though a red-light camera will catch everyone.
I imagine if you looked closely, you'd find that minorities just happened to run that particular red light more than anyone else.
posted by madajb at 2:08 PM on September 3


"To simply reside in St. Louis County, you have to register your residence with the local government."

How is this constitutional?
posted by etherist at 2:12 PM on September 3 [5 favorites]


How is any of it? It's been clear for almost a month now that the entire metropolitan area is a multi-billion-dollar civil rights suit waiting to happen, and the only thing staving it off was a lack of publicity.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:15 PM on September 3 [11 favorites]


Just FYI, nobody ever calls it "Route 115." It's just Natural Bridge Rd. And yeah, the governmental system in St. Louis County is messed up in all kinds of ways.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 2:24 PM on September 3 [5 favorites]


I was in traffic court one time for a ticket about ten years ago, and I'll never forget this. The judge gave an immigrant day laborer a fine of at least $2k-$3k for not having insurance. By the look on his face you could tell there was no possible way he could pay it. Meanwhile all of us middle class whites got our fines reduced and traffic school.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:25 PM on September 3 [10 favorites]




i was going to say that this system in st. louis county is hopelessly broken

and then i realized that it's working fine - it's doing EXACTLY what it was designed to do - milk poor people half to death in a corrupt and byzantine conspiracy of laws and corruption

this is a RICO suit begging to be filed - i am really hoping that atty gen holder isn't going to stop at investigating michael brown's death but this whole awful racket of government that's been going on for decades

and residential permits? i've never heard of such a thing
posted by pyramid termite at 2:27 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


I should add that both of my parents are lawyers and cases like this are why they are saddened by the immense and outsized student loan debts incurred by new lawyers-- it's not that we should kill all the lawyers, it's that communities need more access to legal aid, foundations, and pro bono work, and lawyers who might really want to go into those areas are often saddled with enormous debts and can't afford to. Your legal situation shouldn't be dependent on your lawyer's golf game, if you can even afford to hire one at their regular rates.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:36 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


Ah, I wondered why Natural Bridge Rd had those weirdly placed and hard-to-see stop signs, which I may or may not have accidentally blasted through ...
posted by scruss at 2:44 PM on September 3


St. Louis City split from St. Louis County in 1877. On the census and official documentation, for all normal cities in the country, you choose your city name, and then the county that city is in. In St. Louis, you choose St. Louis City and that's it. There is no county.

A large part of the division came from the post Civil War years where the small municipalities didn't want to give up any sort of control to the more urban city residents. Now it's become a way to simultaneously oppress the poorer residents of the tiny little county townships and a way for the more well-to-do white suburbanites to protect their schools and funding.

The school district that Michael Brown graduated from lost its state accreditation last year. As a result, a number of parents pulled their kids out of Normandy schools and tried to put them in nearby better schools. Since you can't force someone to attend a public school that isn't accredited, and the new schools you sent the kids to aren't really receiving any funding for these kids, the Normandy school district was forced to pay tuition for all the kids who left. As you can imagine this damn near bankrupted the school district.

In response to all these Normandy students flooding into nearby schools, this summer, county municipality boards, like Florissant and Clayton, voted to not allow these children to return to the alternate schools they had attended the year before. The thinking was that Normandy had had a year to get up to par, and if the parents insisted on staying in a "bad" district the students in the "good" districts shouldn't have to suffer.

They've been forced to accept them at the moment, but as far as I know, Normandy still has to pay their tuition. It's an epic clusterfuck of inanity that is largely focused on keep poor, African American students in shitty, underfunded schools.

And don't even get me started on the whole St. Charles refusing to have a Metro stop because they don't want the "wrong" kind of people being able to get into St. Charles via public transportation.

I do like my adopted city, but it's got some major issues when it comes to local government.
posted by teleri025 at 2:45 PM on September 3 [16 favorites]


Also, as part of this crazy piles of regulation, Ferguson households average three warrants. The police are using these tiny little violations as revenue generators and when you can't pay, you get a warrant. And a bigger fine.

It's bullshit.

This is why when we were thinking about buying a house, my husband and I made a point to only look in city limits. Yeah, we have to pay the city income tax and personal property taxes are stupidly high, but screw it. I don't want to give any more money than necessary to the county governments if it's at all possible.
posted by teleri025 at 2:50 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


Pyramid - don't move to Chicago. If your a resident with a car you need a city sticker. It's about 80 a year. I also need a industrial sticker because of my workplace which is 25 a year. My block isn't zoned but many blocks are zoned to only allow people who live on their blocks to be able to park there and that is an additional yearly amount. Add in street cleaning tickets, parking meters ( 8 an hour is the absolute cheapest downtown) other parking restrictions (sport parking (cubs, bears and white sox all put into effect various parking restrictions), rush hour parking, snow parking (when snow is above 2 inches) and just plain not in winter parking. Someone who is not educated and not extremely diligent can easily reach a few hundred dollars in parking fines in a week.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:51 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Well, disincorporation of a tiny St. Louis County municipality isn't unprecedented, at least. St. George, location of my first and only speeding ticket, did it. It wasn't up in that North County clusterfuck though.
posted by evisceratordeath at 2:53 PM on September 3


teleri025, glad you mentioned the efforts to keep Metrolink out of St. Charles County, because some of the reasons cited for opposing it were just absurdly racist, particularly the notion that black people from the city would use Metrolink to commute to St. Charles for the express purpose of committing crimes there.

According to this theory, the "inner city thugs" would ride the train from the city out to St. Charles; mug some people, break into some houses and steal stuff, rob some businesses at gunpoint, or whatever; and then return to the train station to wait for a ride home.

When you think about it, this seems highly implausible for any number of reasons, and yet even some not-overtly-racist people apparently took it seriously. On the Sunday night that the QuikTrip in Ferguson got destroyed, I even saw a new variant of it on Facebook, in which "a friend who knows someone in the police dept." was cited as a source for a warning that the Ferguson rioters were going to ride the Metrolink down to the Shrewsbury station in order to loot Hampton Village (which is at least a mile away from the station).
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:09 PM on September 3 [7 favorites]


Allow me to introduce you to the thriving metropolis of Champ, Missouri.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:51 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Is there anything good about the St. Louis area? I'm going to a conference there this month, and to be honest I'm regretting giving them any money. I mean, there are other places that have problems—North Carolina isn't exactly the least corrupt place in the country, after all—but the sheer level of failure that Missouri seems to embody is incredible. During the Ferguson riots, I was thinking about how Detroit is the city that gets all the publicity for collapse, but St. Louis seems to have done a pretty good job at collapsing while keeping it quiet; and then I remembered that this is the place where they built Pruitt-Igoe, after all.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:20 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Seriously considering leaving the country over this bullshit.
posted by odinsdream at 4:48 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


anything good in St. Louis? "It's a great place to raise a child" blah blah blah
posted by robbyrobs at 4:55 PM on September 3


So you can get on the train for free, you can ride the train for free, but maybe one time out of every fifty, you'll get caught and have to pay a huge fine.

It's a very strange system that seems almost like it was designed to encourage poor people to literally gamble on being law-abiding vs law-breaking.


And that is how I got the one and only ticket you'll see me come up for in Missouri Case.net. I was coming home from the airport after spring break, and I even had the money—I waved it at the officer when she came by—but I was dragging luggage and I'd had nowhere to get change to buy a ticket. (Or at least nowhere that wouldn't require me to spend like $10 on a sandwich I didn't need.) At that time, the machines didn't take $20 bills. Sigh.

By the way, I just read this article when rhizome linked it in the old Ferguson thread, and man, it is seriously something. Now I really hope my old contact at The Washington Post gets back to me, 'cause I have a few anecdotes to add to its coverage...
posted by limeonaire at 4:57 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


You have a town police department so people who don't live or pay taxes there don't get a say in your law enforcement. If it sometimes inconveniences passers-through, well that's the kind of the point.
posted by MattD at 5:33 PM on September 3


Is there anything good about the St. Louis area?

Yes. There are some excellent (Catholic) high schools, good universities, interesting regional cuisine (pizza and BBQ) and not a few very good, hole-in-the-wall type bars and restaurants. Many, many people are very nice in that quiet, mid-western way.

Looking back into history, St. Louis could have been what Chicago became save for a history of really terrible, and often plain racist, urban planning decisions. The potential exists for a bright future and maybe recent events will help motivate people into allowing that to happen. I'd like to think so but we'll see.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:12 PM on September 3 [5 favorites]


The only other traffic ticket I ever got? Charlack, baby. But luckily I had a full-time job by that point, so I was able to get a lawyer and plead it down. Going to pay totally spooked me, though.

This is what I wrote to work friends in 2009 describing the Charlack experience:
So I just went to Charlack to pay the speeding ticket-turned-parking ticket I got on I-170 back in July. Attached is the Google Maps image of their "city hall." What you don't see are the off-duty cops leaning on the railing of the back porch and the heavily antennaed black police cars clustered like roaches around three sides of the building.

I parked at the Indian Trails branch of the library, which is immediately across the street, and walked over. I went in the door on the left, which opens into a tiny column of air maybe 2 1/2 feet on a side: behind you is the door you entered through, to your right is the outer wall of the courtroom, and to your left and in front of you are short wood walls topped by thick, double-paned bulletproof glass. On the two inches of counter space in front of you rests a credit-card swipe box; a doorbell is wired through the glass a few inches up. On the counter inside sits a black can of mace sporting an image of a silver badge.

Inside, a short, lithe sandy-haired man (possibly the city administrator/police chief himself, I now realize) bounces around a claustrophobic space. What little hallway exists in there is obstructed by filing cabinets at knee height, bulging wall-mounted file folders, and desktop space. (The thought: "Only in a combined city hall/police headquarters could you get away with this.") The phone rings every few minutes—another lawbreaker requesting information about ticket-payment options. Further back you can see a small desk and rolling chair; the bulletin board above it has a child's neon pink, green, and orange drawings of dinosaurs on display.

Anyway, it was kind of a surreal experience to suddenly find myself in this boxed-in space, paying my ticket by credit card. I asked the guy behind the glass how many people he gets in there per hour, and he said usually two or three, except on court days, when they'll get 20 or 30. What occurred to me only after I left is that I should've asked about the volume of mail—'cause most people with any sort of business in Charlack have probably never been to this ticket shack in person.
posted by limeonaire at 6:14 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Is there anything good about the St. Louis area?

The City Museum is absolutely splendid.
posted by Monsters at 6:35 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


You guys probably saw this, but Justice Dept. to probe Ferguson police force.

Per the article: "The federal officials said the probe will look not only at Ferguson but also at other police departments in St. Louis County."
posted by limeonaire at 7:03 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


I just had the most bizarre conversation with someone one Facebook who thinks this is all about people not owning up to their responsibilities rather than a government out of control.

What's bizarre is that his guy is from a well connected Midwestern family, and went to prison for smuggling drugs for a Mexican cartel and got off with a light sentence because he had a judge in the family. He doesn't get that if he had been black in St. Louis, he might still be in jail or just shot dead on the side of the road. He's not even in the country any more.

The ability that people have to contort reality to their preferred narrative is jaw dropping to me.
posted by empath at 7:09 PM on September 3 [8 favorites]


You have a town police department so people who don't live or pay taxes there don't get a say in your law enforcement.

Ahahahah ohohoho MattD, that's so funny that you'd say that, since in North STL County where I live, a number of the police officers who serve their little municipalities don't live there. Don't live anywhere near there. In fact, even the St. Louis County Police department, which serves all of St. Louis County, covering the unincorporated areas and assisting these little municipal forces, has no residency requirement. You can live in Illinois and police STLCo for all STLCoPD cares.

Is there anything good about the St. Louis area?

We have one of the best botanical gardens in the world. It only costs $8 per person to get in-- $4 if you live in St. Louis City or County. We have a world class art museum, a zoo, a history museum and a science museum that are all free admission. As in, you just walk in and do not pay. We have amazing public parks and gorgeous historic architecture and wonderful local theaters and a thriving music scene. Plus we have some of the best drinking water in the world (thanks, Muddy Miss) and a pile of farm-fresh local produce at our doorsteps.

If it weren't for the shitty public transportation system, the crumbling infrastructure, the bad-to-mediocre public schools, the rampant casual racism, the corrupt police forces, the corporate cronies running city-level governments, the circus-sideshow-level antics of the Missouri state legislature, the 100-degrees-in-the-shade August weather, the occasional tornado, and the wandering hordes of mosquitoes, this would be a perfect place to live.
posted by BlueJae at 7:13 PM on September 3 [18 favorites]


teleri025, glad you mentioned the efforts to keep Metrolink out of St. Charles County, because some of the reasons cited for opposing it were just absurdly racist, particularly the notion that black people from the city would use Metrolink to commute to St. Charles for the express purpose of committing crimes there.

According to this theory, the "inner city thugs" would ride the train from the city out to St. Charles; mug some people, break into some houses and steal stuff, rob some businesses at gunpoint, or whatever; and then return to the train station to wait for a ride home.


My parents argued about this with me over dc metro coming to southern maryland, despite ample evidence of the economic boom happening in northern virginia along the orange line.
posted by empath at 7:15 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


pyramid termite: " i am really hoping that atty gen holder isn't going to stop at investigating michael brown's death but this whole awful racket of government that's been going on for decades..."

I look forward to the Republicans cheering him on going after the horrible bad government corruption, because we all know government is bad, right?

Wait, what's that?
Ah, gotcha.
OK, nevermind, then.
posted by symbioid at 7:16 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


interesting regional cuisine (pizza

This is a damn lie. St. Louis pizza is as bad as its' racism.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:32 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


One County, 90 police forces

In contrast, there are countries with one police force. Country, not county.


Data point; Australia has one police force per state, and a Federal Police force. And we have serious arguments as to whether state governments should even exist anymore.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:39 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


This article made me think of what happened earlier today. I was pulled over for an expired registration -- I was little spooked as I thought a cop had been trailing me earlier in the day and I couldn't figure out why.

I did the "right" thing as I was pulled over. I put car in park, hazards on and kept my hands visible.

I did realize what was the reason at once when the cop started talking -- I knew there was an unpaid parking ticket (actually two as I learned) and the registration had relapsed. I hadn't paid the parking tickets as the two stupid Massachusetts towns involved didn't have usable online payment systems.

The police officer was very polite as was I. He let me go to the Market Basket as long as I went home afterwards and let me go with a warning.

I thought what would have happened if I wasn't white and looking obviously (stereo-typically) non-threatening. As a white (non-US born new with accent) citizen I was quite confident and not particularly afraid of the transaction with the officer, but at the same events of Ferguson were on my mind.

I also thanked god that our new baby sitter with almost no English skills wasn't driving.
posted by zeikka at 8:44 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


To simply reside in St. Louis County, you have to register your residence with the local government.

Does anyone know how long this has been in place? Because I never did this when I lived in STL County in the 90s.

And the speed traps are EVERYWHERE in th county. I knew someone in college who got pulled over in Maplewood for going 3 miles over the limit (bc the limits frequently change as you go from municipality to municipality).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:47 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


Of the Ferguson-related threads, and even of the pieces I've read online and listened to (mainly Democracy Now and Hard Knock Radio), only this thread seems to me to begin to get at what's really going on in Ferguson.

But I don't think it is the money being milked out of poor people; the money is only the means to an end, and the end is containing, isolating, and controlling the primarily black population we are gentrifying out of inner city St. Louis:
The social and economic inequality in the St. Louis area, which is divided along racial lines, is a microcosm of a problem playing out across the U.S.: Wealthier, typically white residents move into a previously economically disadvantaged neighborhood in the city, pricing out black families and displacing them to suburban outskirts, according to a recent Brookings report.

In 2008, the population of poor people in suburbs across the nation grew twice as fast as in city centers, the report said. By 2008, U.S. suburbs were home to the largest share of the nation’s poor.

In the St. Louis area, this type of population shift transformed the predominately white town of Ferguson into a largely black one.

In 1990, white residents of Ferguson comprised 73.8 percent of the total population, while those identified as black made up 25.1 percent, according to the U.S Census. By 2010, 29.3 percent of residents identified as white and 67.4 percent as black.

During that same 20-year period, the city's unemployment rate soared from less than 5 percent to over 13 percent.

By 2012, roughly 25 percent of residents lived below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012) and 44 percent fell below twice that level.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis proper, the white share of the population jumped from 28.1 percent in 2000, to 49.2 percent in 2010.
As teleri025 notes, a Ferguson household averages 3 warrants a year; the man of twists and turn's link fills out the picture:
... In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.
You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”
All these fees and fines can make it impossible to own a car or even drive:
Failure to pay criminal justice fees can result in revocation of an individual’s drivers license, arrest and imprisonment. Individuals with revoked licenses who drive (say to work to earn money to pay their fees) and are apprehended can be further fined and imprisoned.
and if you have a warrant out for your arrest, it's a risk to leave your neighborhood -- or your apartment.

Ferguson is a new American Bantustan.

Apartheid may be dead and buried in South Africa, but it has been reborn as a major instrument of policy in America.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 PM on September 3 [8 favorites]


Apartheid may be dead and buried in South Africa, but it has been reborn as a major instrument of policy in America.

The Ghetto Is Public Policy, previously
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:47 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


When I was at Washington University in STL, a Puerto Rican friend and I were on MetroLink and he'd forgotten to grab his metro pass, and a security guard came by to check our tickets. When Rafa realized he didn't have his pass, the guard asked for his driver's license to write up his citation. Upon seeing the Puerto Rican license, the guard asked whether or not he was a US citizen. Rafa kind of looked at him blankly, and the guard started yelling at him for being uncooperative, and kicked us all off the train and wouldn't let Rafa purchase another ticket to get back on.

(But - a good thing in St. Louis. Kim Massie performs every Tuesday and Thursday at Beale on Broadway.)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:45 AM on September 4


Apartheid may be dead and buried in South Africa, but it has been reborn as a major instrument of policy in America.

From an NYT link via the previous Ferguson post:
• The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)

• The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967.
posted by p3t3 at 6:27 AM on September 4


Is there anything good about the St. Louis area?

Ha! I had a job interview for a company in Chesterfield about a week before all the stuff in Ferguson went down. Since this would be a big, cross-country move for me, I asked everyone I met how they liked the St. Louis area. It was a good mix of immigrants, natives, and those that had moved for work. Seriously, 99% of the responses were "It's okay", "You get used to it", or "No, I've been trying to leave but nothing's worked out yet" (mostly the immigrants on that response, but some natives, too). There were a couple people who did say that they liked the city. Their reasons why? "My family is here" or "My spouse's family is here". Not exactly great reasons for someone like me to leave their family and move there.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:04 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


anything good in St. Louis? "It's a great place to raise a child" blah blah blah

As cities go it's a lot better than Chicago in a lot of ways: cheaper prices, less traffic, much better road maintenance, better and cheaper parking.

It cost my wife and I something like $80 to visit Shedd Aquarium, plus parking (another $16 IIRC) some distance away). The St. Louis Zoo, one of the highest rated zoos in the world, is absolutely free, and if you don't get lucky with the limited free parking in Forest Park, parking is $11.



This is a damn lie. St. Louis pizza is as bad as its' racism.

Classic St. Louis pizza (Imo's, Cecil Whitakers) is horrible. Provel cheese should not even be called cheese. You shouldn't be able to tilt a pizza sideways and watch everything slide off into a greasy pile of tasteless goo.

However! Pi Pizzeria is the exception -- it is seriously freaking awesome. They opened a store in DC because Barack Obama loved it so much when he visited.
posted by Foosnark at 9:04 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Dunno LizBoBiz, I moved up here from Tennessee and like I've said earlier, I love the hell out of it. The racial issues are awful and frustrating, but after growing up in east Tennessee and living in middle Tn for most of my adult life, St. Louis is like a bastion of racial harmony and integration.

Almost everyone I've met and interacted with have been really sweet and kind, and there's a ton of stuff to do and places to go. Yeah, there's some hardline assholes in government and in power that only want to maintain the broken system, but there are a good number of folks who want to make stuff better and at least after Ferguson, some of their voices are getting heard.

Honestly, I don't think this sort of institutionalized racism and control are unique to St. Louis, in fact, I'm pretty confident it's not. Hopefully, all of this coming to light will do more than make folks across the country say, "But that's a St. Louis problem." and instead say "That might happen here as well...and it shouldn't happen anywhere."

When it comes to real equality and actually living that "All Men are Created Equal" thing that this country is supposed to be about, we've never had perfection. But hopefully, as more and more people become really aware, we can get closer. All we can do is try.
posted by teleri025 at 9:04 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


In the town of Berkeley, for example, new tenants must obtain an occupancy permit from the Inspections Department of the City of Berkeley. A permit costs $20, and requires a valid driver’s license or identification card. If your license has been suspended due to an outstanding warrant, you can’t move in. A permit includes the names of the people legally allowed to live at the residence. If you want to add additional names or change a name, it’s an additional $25 and a signed authorization from the landlord. And again, you’ll need an ID.

I... what. I know someone already asked this but how is this even remotely constitutional? And how has it not been challenged?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:19 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


teleri025, nothing in Ferguson had happened yet (Michael Brown was still alive when I was there) so I wasn't specifically asking about racism stuff. And yes, everyone was very nice and friendly and very honest. It just struck me that it seemed if you didn't have family there, it was just ok or people wanted to leave. I like where I live now in a major city so not hearing anyone say they actually liked it really left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole place.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:11 PM on September 4


I grew up here and can't stand the pizza, but toasted ravioli are amazing. I was in my twenties before I knew ravioli was normally slimy and gross.

We also have the second most winningest baseball team ever. You don't get that with Chicago. ;)
posted by schyler523 at 1:52 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Rangers fan here so the Cardinals suck it. :)
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:13 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Pi is tasty, true, but it is so freaking expensive. Pizza for six people should be under $70.
posted by scruss at 2:19 PM on September 4


I will say the Cardinals fans are bizarrely nice and polite, which is a surprise, coming from New England. My mom, a lifelong Sox fan, was like, "So they don't flip cars or yell at people?" and I was like, "no they just shrug and say 'well we all did our best' and go back to their lives" and she was like, "WHAT IS THAT EVEN LIKE?"
posted by Greg Nog at 2:23 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


“How the Suburbs Got Poor
,” Reihan Salam, Slate, 04 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 5:24 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: I don't have a ton of sympathy for someone who acknowledges that they have a problem with speeding and then continues doing it, any more than I do someone who acknowledges they have a problem with drinking and driving and continues to do it, but it certainly sucks that there's such a short list of places in the US where going without a car and still being an economically useful adult is even a viable option.

The issue here is that a lot of these shithole small towns will pull you over for driving like, 61 in a 55. That isn't speeding, especially when that's the speed everyone drives. It only is if the cop wants to be an asshole, or if you're a prescriptivist troll like a few certain people on here who would love to split hairs on that.

I always drive exactly the speed limit past/through towns like this. And the thing is, even that doesn't make you safe from getting pulled over. You might only get your time wasted if everything else checks out, but they might pull you over for being "too careful" and that being "suspicious" if everyone else is driving 65 in the 55 and you're going 56 max.

Frankly, i find it hard to believe that a lot of the speeding here is really speeding, and not just DWB type harassment for essentially daring to drive through their former sundown town, that they look back on longingly, while brown.

Also on a further read, i noticed that DiscourseMarker brought up exactly what i was talking about.

Greg Nog: So you can get on the train for free, you can ride the train for free, but maybe one time out of every fifty, you'll get caught and have to pay a huge fine.

It's a very strange system that seems almost like it was designed to encourage poor people to literally gamble on being law-abiding vs law-breaking.


Seattle implemented their light rail with this stupid fucking system. Then they rolled it out to buses too, for certain BRT routes. Me and several of my friends are convinced it's open class warfare.

I don't really think anyone could say or do anything to convince me that it's not this way because someone did the math and figured out they actually make more money off of fines, and looping people into that black hole, than they do the normal way. It just doesn't make any damn sense otherwise.

It also doesn't help that the fair enforcement security are shooting people either.
posted by emptythought at 5:40 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Re cops selectively enforcing the law: The best man in my wedding was a friend-since-junior-high of my spouse and, subsequently, a cop. (Not naming the jurisdiction because I think this kind of thing is probably widespread.) He used to relate cop anecdotes to my now-spouse. Apparently, in [jurisdiction], there are a number of laws that are only enforced on the "you got attitudinal to a cop" level. Pulled over for a traffic violation and get mouthy? Guess what, you've now got an additional citation for "failure to have a trash container in the vehicle".

Honestly, I'm kind of glad that my spouse and this person have dropped out of contact. He may have been a great guy at age 16. After several decades as a cop? Um.
posted by Lexica at 7:38 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]




“Ferguson, the Foreclosure Crisis and America’s Hedge-Fund Landlords,” John Light, Moyers & Company, 05 September 2014
In Ferguson, [the percentage of homeowners who are in underwater mortgages] sits at 50 percent. Because so many homeowners are struggling, the town is ripe for institutional investors — often hedge funds or private equity groups on the coasts, thousands of miles away — to buy up homes, then rent them to low-income tenants. And that’s what has happened. Investment firms are responsible for roughly a quarter of all recent housing purchases in the town.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:15 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


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