Ferguson City Manager John Shaw Resigns
Following a damning report by the Department of Justice detailing a pattern of racism and several months of intense controversy surrounding the St. Louis suburb, Ferguson City Manager John Shaw has resigned his post. Shaw was implicated in the DOJ's report as the chief figure behind the city’s operations, which have been deemed "racially biased and unconstitutional." The 39-year-old has served as city manager since 2007, and while Ferguson's mayor James Knowles III has previously received much of the flack for the city's mishandling of affairs since the tragic death of Michael Brown, the latest investigations suggest that Shaw, alongside the city's finance director and police chief, are much more to blame than previously believed.
City officials, like Shaw, were accused of using the Municipal Court system, which unfairly targeted black individuals as a for-profit business venture, confirming the worst fears of many across the country who have maintained that institutional racism is at the basis of an inherently flawed system. In a truly horrific display of overt corruption, the report determined that Shaw responded "Wonderful!" to an email from Police Chief Thomas Jackson noting that court revenue for February 2011 was nearly $180,000, representing a four-year monthly record.
Shaw was announced to be taking leave of his position following a City Council meeting on Tuesday, and is the latest in a string of public officials and officers to resign. On Monday, current municipal judge, Ronald J. Brockmeyer, also took his leave after the DOJ report suggested that he engaged in ticket-fixing and issuing unconstitutional fees. The Missouri Supreme Court decided to take "extraordinary action" on Monday and reassigned all Ferguson’s Municipal Court cases to a state court in hopes of breaking an alarming pattern of discrimination and unjust judiciary proceedings. The city clerk has also been fired, and two officers have left the force following the uncovering of racist emails.
After the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a "mutual separation agreement" with Shaw, Mayor Knowles told reporters, "We appreciate John's service and commitment to the City of Ferguson for the past eight years. The City Council and John Shaw feel as though it is the appropriate time for the City to move forward as it begins its search for a new City Manager." While this latest chapter in the ongoing Ferguson saga certainly represents a step in the right direction, it seems that it will take much more than a change in public representation to begin to ease the damage wrought by years of discrimination and systemic racism.