The city where Michael Brown was killed by a police officer continues to charge a black man in a five-year old case stemming from his sitting in his car in a park.
A 2012 episode in Ferguson, Mo., along with the later police killing of Michael Brown, helped prompt a federal consent decree with the Justice Department. Fred Watson, a black man, was sitting in his car in a park when a police officer drew his gun on him. The officer searched the car without permission and wrote more than half a dozen tickets, including for lacking a vehicle inspection sticker and not wearing a seatbelt, even though the car was parked. Five years later, Ferguson continues to prosecute Watson, even as it struggles to repair its image as a city that has been unfair toward African Americans, the New York Times reports.
Watson is due in court on Tuesday for a criminal trial on nine minor charges stemming from the episode. “When does it stop?” asked Watson, 37. “This goes way beyond me. This practice has got to stop.” The continued prosecution has raised questions about how serious Ferguson is about reform. The Brown death brought scrutiny not only on the frequency of police officers’ use of force against unarmed African Americans, but also on Ferguson’s municipal court system and the practice, nationwide, of employing courts to bring in revenue through fines and fees. Ferguson officials would not discuss the Watson case, but they said the city is well on its way to change, particularly in its municipal court system Since August 2014, the city has dismissed 39,000 municipal court cases, forgiven $1.8 million in fines, and enrolled 1,381 people in community service projects instead of requiring them to pay fines. Since Brown’t death of Mr. Brown, the city has replaced its police chief, municipal judge, prosecutor and city manager.