On his way out of Ferguson, John Shaw, in defiant fashion, basically gave a big middle finger to the Department of Justice, denying the meticulous findings of the Ferguson report
, and stating that the current state of Ferguson has nothing to do with any policies or practices that he has advanced. Herein lies the essential dilemma.
John Shaw, after six months of protests and the deepest investigation in the history of Ferguson, is too blinded by his own ego (and large, increasing salary) that he still refuses to see that he has been the mastermind behind one of the most egregiously racist governments in modern American history. For the past eight years, John Shaw has been the CEO of Ferguson. The hiring and firing of executives started and stopped with him. Whatever Ferguson is or isn't, falls on his lap. According to the NY Times:
Over the past several months, Mr. Shaw has been the city’s lead official in discussions with the federal authorities over ways to improve the city. The Justice Department’s report, however, shows that Mr. Shaw aggressively pushed the police to bring in more money through tickets and fines that disproportionately fell on African-Americans. And he ignored warnings that the criminal justice system was unfair and needed fixing.
In the scathing 105 page Ferguson report
, when Chief of Police Tom Jackson was quoted writing, “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. … Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.”
Whatever the chief of police knows or doesn't know about tax shortfalls and budget needs came from John Shaw. Shaw, in subsequent emails, went on to praise Judge Ronald Brockmeyer for doing a "great job" raising and collecting fines from citizens to help Ferguson meet its goals.
Head below the fold for more on this broken system.
It got worse.
The Department of Justice also noted in their report Shaw's e-mailed responses to reports on increasing court revenue. In March 2011, when police chief Tom Jackson reported that the court revenue in February was more than $179,000 and that it “beat our next biggest month in the last four years by over $17,000,” Shaw responded, “Wonderful!”
In January 2013, Jackson reported to him that the municipal court gross revenue the previous year passed $2 million for the first time ever, Shaw e-mailed in response, “Awesome! Thanks!”
Later, the Ferguson report details a Ferguson captain as stating,
“Girls have been swamped all day with a line of people paying off fines today. Since 9:30 this morning there hasn't been less than five people waiting in line for the last three hours 10 to 15 people at all times.”
So, Shaw pushed the need for more tickets, Jackson pushed his officers for more arrests and citations, and Brockmeyer was relentless as a judge collecting the fines (in spite of owing nearly $200,000 in back taxes himself
). Shaw can conveniently deny
that he specifically asked police to target African Americans or poor people, but it's what they did over and over and over again. He did this tens of thousands of times at his request and with his compliments for their great work. As Shaw and the almost exclusively white members of the Ferguson government got richer, everyone else in Ferguson suffered.