Ferguson city manager leaves post

Published: Wednesday 11th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Ferguson City Council has unanimously approved a resolution to part ways with the city’s chief executive John Shaw following a scathing Justice Department report that alleged racial bias in the city police department and court system.

The St Louis suburb has been beleaguered by unrest since a white police officer fatally shot unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown last summer.

Mr Brown’s shooting prompted protests in the St Louis area and across the US, including after a St Louis County grand jury declined to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson, who resigned from the department.

The Justice Department also cleared Mr Wilson in the shooting.

But the Justice Department also said last week that Ferguson’s police and court systems functioned as a money-making enterprise that heightened tensions among residents.

The report repeatedly cited Mr Shaw’s role, as the city’s chief executive, in encouraging the police force to aggressively ticket motorists as a means to generate revenue.

The findings also cited cases of racial profiling and bigotry by the predominantly white police force in the mostly black St Louis suburb.

The report already has led to a Missouri appeals court judge being tapped to overhaul the local court system, and racist emails uncovered in the investigation led to the firing of the city clerk and resignation of two police officers last week.

A news release from the city said Ferguson City Council had reached a “mutual separation agreement” with Mr Shaw, effective immediately. The statement also said a nationwide search for his replacement would begin right away.

“I believe that the city of Ferguson has the resolve to overcome the challenges it faces in the coming months and emerge as a stronger community for it,” Mr Shaw, 39, said in a statement included with the release.

Since Mr Brown’s death seven months ago, mayor James Knowles has been the public face and voice of Ferguson’s city government.

But Mr Shaw held the legal power to make personnel and policy changes in the police department – not Mr Knowles, a part-time officeholder who earns less than 5,000 dollars (£3,300) annually.

Mr Shaw has been Ferguson’s city manager for eight years.

He has not spoken publicly about the shooting, protests, grand jury inquiry or Justice Department investigation. He stood silently beside two city council members at Mr Knowles’ news conference responding to the Justice Department report.

The Justice Department report, in one instance, showed that Mr Shaw responded to an email from police chief Tom Jackson about a record-setting month for court revenue – nearly 180,000 dollars (£119,000) in February 2011 alone – with the exclamation, “Wonderful!”

And when Mr Jackson told Mr Shaw in January 2013 that municipal court revenue had exceeded two million (£1.3 million) the previous year, the city manager was similarly excited. “Awesome!” he said, according to the federal inquiry.

But in a statement issued after the announcement of his departure, Mr Shaw said his office “never instructed the police department to target African Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor. Any inferences of that kind from the report are simply false.”

Published: Wednesday 11th March 2015 by The News Editor

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