In a town of roughly 21,000 residents, more than 16,000 arrest warrants were held on people living in Ferguson, Missouri — 96% of those arrested on outstanding warrants were black.
On Monday, some of those residents finally caught a break.
Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin withdrew all warrants issued before 31 December 2014. The judge, who was appointed in June, told KSDK-TV that he hoped to alleviate fears of predatory policing practices in the city.
“These changes should continue the process of restoring confidence in the Court, alleviating fears of the consequences of appearing in Court, and giving many residents a fresh start.”
Judge McCullin also said that he would reinstate driver’s licenses suspended by the city’s director of revenue.
"It doesn’t give them a free pass. One, we're removing active warrants, we're not removing cases. They’ll still have to answer. We’ll be sending out summons to those whose warrants have been withdrawn."
The decision comes more than one year after an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer. The protest movement which followed, sometimes turned violent, prompting a national discussion on race and what's considered appropriate policing tactics.
Brendan Roediger, a Saint Louis University law professor and attorney, praised the decision but said more work needs to be done.
"It's real and it's important. They deserve to be given credit for it. I applaud Judge McCullin. It's meaningful. It's significant,” he told CNN.
"But ultimately, it is not the solution. [City officials] may do some good things out of pressure, but without a system that creates full-time professional courts, there isn't a system that is sustainable and fair across the board.”
CNN Money reported that the city is still issuing an excessive amount of arrest warrants this year. Despite the scathing Department of Justice report sighting racial bias and predatory targeting of African-Americans, more than 2,300 new arrest warrants were issued in 2015.
"The combination of racial profiling and revenue-based policing creates massive animosity between people in the community and police. It does not increase public safety. "