You’ve heard of predatory banking, where one mistake in your checking account could domino into a slew of penalties and fees. Predatory banking has been reformed. But the idea of generating profit from fines and penalties, and the accumulating interest on them, is still around… in police departments.

A panel from The Young Turks discusses the issue:

The Department of Justice report on police abuses of power in Ferguson, Missouri continues to reveal damning details of the ways both the police and the courts have routinely abused both their power and the people living in Ferguson…. Money was one of the key motivators for a systematic abuse of power…. The report found that city police and court officials have worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process….

City and police leadership pressure officers to write citations, independent of any public safety need, and rely on citation productivity to fund the city budget…. In some cases, locking individuals in Ferguson into a cycle… where they are paying fees for the rest of their life.

[…]

This is not unique to Ferguson. This is something happening throughout the entire country. It’s a form of regressive taxation. This is what happens when you don’t have the rich pay their fair share of taxes. All of the sudden, you have to come up with the revenue. And what do you do? You start having people pay more money to park their cars on the street. You start issuing more citations. You basically go after the middle class and the working class.

[…]

It reminds me of the predatory banking practices, until they passed the new law. If you were late for one $2 charge for coffee, then you got a $39 charge on top of that on your credit card. And then they would continue to charge on top of it, so that somebody would end up paying $1,000s in fines and fees because that was the nature of this predatory banking. And now, this is essentially predatory policing. They’re not just using it to fund the finances of the municipality, they’re also using it to keep these people from being able to get beyond these fees.

— The Young Turks

Read the Department of Justice report: Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. ‘It’s a case study in how, not just minorities, but poor people are oppressed in this country.’ — Cenk Uygur

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