St. Louis, MO is attempting to regain some face after producing a rather uninformative incident report from the Michael Brown murder, participating in numerous violations of protesters’ civil rights, and having to deal with Lt. Dan Page, who embarrassed the St. Louis County Police Department with a racist rant in which he discussed his love of killing people.
St. Louis officials will be announcing that the city’s municipal court will clear outstanding warrants for nonviolent traffic offenses, and allow offenders to reset court dates without a fee if they act by the end of the year. This move is being touted as the most progressive warrant forgiveness plan in the region.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that,
About 220,000 outstanding warrants issued before Oct. 1 in the city will automatically be forgiven, according to Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay. He said the announcement was planned for today.
Rainford said the novel approach comes from conversations in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, where many advocates of the poor complain that some residents are burdened by steep court fines and saddled with warrants for minor offenses.
“In light of Ferguson, we were thinking of how we can be more fair,” Rainford said.
“This is a way for people get this off their back and for us to get it off the books,” Rainford said. “But it also keeps people accountable for the underlying offenses.” Offenders will still face the original charges that led to the failure to appear charge.
The amnesty will not include state crimes or drunk driving offenses. “These are not serious matters or serious crimes,” Rainford explained.
While this will not do much to repair the city’s image after its handling of the Ferguson protests, many people will benefit from the city’s awkward attempts to whitewash its image. The Post-Dispatch says,
Now, those with an outstanding warrant issued prior to Oct. 1 stemming from nonviolent municipal offenses in St. Louis, usually for failure to appear in court, will receive a postcard in the mail informing them that the warrant will be cleared until Dec. 31. If offenders don’t come to the municipal court by the end of the year and schedule a new court date, then the warrant will be put back into place.
Mary Ellen Ponder, the city’s operations director, estimated that about 70,000 to 80,000 people will receive postcards. (Many individuals have an average of three to four outstanding warrants per person.)
Rainford. according to the Post-Dispatch, admitted that “the novel approach comes from conversations in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, where many advocates of the poor complain that some residents are burdened by steep court fines and saddled with warrants for minor offenses.”
Some may view this as an act of benevolence on the part of the city, but the sad reality is that it is simply a publicity stunt that only forgives people for not showing up for court — the city stands to real substantial benefits in collecting fines for the original charges.