The city of Ferguson, Mo., said Monday that it will reform its police and courts after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager last month roiled the St. Louis suburb and set off race-related protests.
The Ferguson City Council, which on Tuesday will hold its first public meeting since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer, said new laws will reduce the city budget’s dependence on court fines and give citizens more oversight of the police department.
After Brown’s shooting, residents of the mostly black town with a mostly white government and police force complained about years of racial profiling and onerous traffic fines that affected mostly poor and African American residents.
“The overall goal of these changes is to improve trust within the community and increase transparency, particularly within Ferguson’s courts and police department,” council member Mark Byrne said in a statement.
The council, which consists of six members and the mayor, was expected to hold Tuesday’s meeting at an area church at 7 p.m. to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd. Protesters have been demanding the ouster of both Mayor James Knowles III and Police Chief Tom Jackson.
The city said it will abolish several administrative fees that affect low-income people, such as the $25 fee for towing vehicles, and set up payment programs for defendants having trouble paying fines for traffic offenses.
Officials are under fire for how they handled the aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting. The council canceled its last regular meeting, late that month, as the town seethed with sometimes violent protests and was placed under a state of emergency by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D).
Protests have continued in Ferguson and around the country to demand change in what demonstrators say is a long history of police intimidation and abuse of African Americans in the St. Louis area and many other U.S. cities.