A study of policing in the St. Louis area released Monday, which criticized the profit-driven practices of many departments in St. Louis County, revealed a startling statistic about arrests for minor crimes made in one tiny municipality.
Beverly Hills, Missouri, population 574, has taken in over a quarter of its revenue from court fees and fines in recent years, at an annual rate of nearly $400 per resident. Its police department patrols Beverly Hills as well as nearby Velda Village Hills, a combined area totaling less than a quarter of a square mile.
Between 2010 and 2014, Beverly Hills made an average of 1,087 arrests per 1,000 residents for less serious offenses, meaning they arrested more people for such offenses each year than actually lived in the jurisdiction they patrolled, according to the new report from the Police Executive Research Forum. That's "more than 100 times the national rate of arrests" for such offenses, according to the report.
Other St. Louis County cities -- including Edmundson, Moline Acres, Pine Lawn, Calverton Park and Pagedale -- made more than 10 times as many arrests for less serious offenses as they did for more serious crimes, according to the report. Nationally, police make an average of less than two arrests for minor offenses for every one arrest for a serious crime, the report stated.
"The dramatic difference in arrest rates in so many municipalities in St. Louis County suggests that some agencies are devoting disproportionate attention and resources to less serious crime issues," the report stated. "This seems to be occurring even in communities that have problems with more serious crime."
The Police Executive Research Forum, which has worked with hundreds of police departments across the country, had "never before encountered" the type of profit-driven ticketing policies it found in parts of St. Louis County, according to the report. PERF studied policing in the St. Louis region at the request of Better Together St. Louis, an organization that has focused on municipal fragmentation in the area.
Policing around St. Louis County has come under scrutiny since a police officer in Ferguson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 last year, sparking protests. A Justice Department report on the operations of the Ferguson Police Department and municipal court system resulted in the resignations of several high-ranking officials, including the police chief.