Brookside, a small town in Alabama notorious for handing out petty-ante tickets, relies financially on tickets and aggressive policing, AL.com reports. In a two-year period between 2018 and 2020 Brookside revenues from fines and forfeitures soared more than six hundred forty percent and now make up half the city’s total income. The town of 1,253 north of Birmingham reported just 55 serious crimes to the state in the entire eight year period between 2011 and 2018, none of them homicide or rape.
In 2018 it began building a police empire, hiring more and more officers to blanket its six miles of roads and mile-and-a-half jurisdiction on Interstate 22. By 2020, Brookside made more misdemeanor arrests than it has residents. It went from towing 50 vehicles in 2018 to 789 in 2020 – each carrying fines. Brookside officers have been accused in lawsuits of fabricating charges, using racist language and “making up laws” to stack charges against passersby. Defendants must pay thousands in fines and fees – or pay for costly appeals to state court – and poorer residents or passersby fall into patterns of debt they cannot easily escape. Brookside now faces at least five lawsuits.