Ferguson judge withdraws all arrest warrants before 2015

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FERGUSON, Mo. — The municipal court judge in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday announced sweeping changes to the city’s court system, including an order to withdraw all arrest warrants issued in that city before December 31, 2014.

Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin, who was appointed in June, also changed the conditions for pretrial release. According to a press release put out by Ferguson, all defendants will be given new court dates with alternative penalties like payment plans or community service.

Ferguson became the focal point of a national debate about race and policing in August 2014, after then-city police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot and killed teenager Michael Brown, who is black.

A grand jury declined to charge Wilson in that case. Yet protests surrounding it also revealed other issues involving Ferguson police and the municipal court system.

In March, a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation found that Ferguson police and the city’s municipal court engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans.

For example, in 88 percent of the cases in which the Ferguson police reported using force, it was against African-Americans. Also, between 2012 and 2014, black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during traffic stops, but 26 percent less likely to be found in possession of contraband.

Those issues didn’t necessarily go away with the Justice Department report’s release. An exclusive CNNMoney analysis earlier this month found the city was still pumping out thousands of new arrest warrants and jailing people over minor offenses.

By that point in 2015, the city had issued more than 2,300 new arrest warrants for the year and thousands of older warrants continued to haunt people, even as neighboring municipalities were wiping out old tickets or warrants entirely.