THE TOWN OF JEFFERSON. Supporters of the plan to restore control in St. Petersburg. Louis said the move to a state-appointed council could eliminate some of the policies they say get in the way of good policing.
But whether or not they support the plan, a former local official who headed the governor's former commission said politics was also an important feature of the system.
Under proposals from the Republican-controlled House and Senate, a four-member council of police commissioners appointed by the governor would work with the mayor or council chairman beginning in August 2023.
Touted as a way to stem the city's high crime rate, the county council must maintain a police force of at least 1,142, down from the current roster of around 1,000.
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Senator Nick Schroer, a Republican from St. Petersburg, announced the plan in January. Charles County said returning to state control after a decade of local control could eliminate some policy measures it says have led to chronic criminal behavior and warnings. Business. who is thinking of leaving town.
"It removes the political dynamics and distrust from the person running the department and puts it back under the control of a group of individuals who will decide what's best for the city," Schroer told reporters during the interview. a press conference on Capitol Hill.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, who opposes the takeover, said it won't happen. In an interview with WBUR's On Point this week, the mayor voiced his concerns.
"Under the former state board, politics was present in every decision about our police department," Jones told Boston Public Radio.
His predecessor and other local officials also told the Post-Dispatch that the policy was a feature of the old system.
The state-controlled council, which was ousted by Missouri voters in a 2012 referendum, has at times been intensely political, with other elected officials asking members to favor certain police officers over others.
In some cases, state senators tasked with confirming gubernatorial appointments have threatened to withhold support for city initiatives if members do not support the appointment of certain officials.
Former mayor Vincent Schemel, who served three terms from 1981 to 1993, said trying to welcome new members after a new governor was elected hurt the department.
Membership then waned under the late St George businessman. Louis Robert Baer, that is, the total turnover is not so high.
Baer, who served as chairman of the board from 1985 to 1989, is committed to running the police department like a business. Among other changes, he changed the promotion process to a merit-based system.
"After the changes Bob Baer initiated, it became less political," Schemel said.
Steve Conway has been following this process for decades. He served on the council for 27 years and later served as chief of staff to former mayor Lyda Crewson. Her father, Jim, is a mayor and serves in the State Police Department.
He said some changes had eased the playing field when it came to promotions within the department.
But in his opinion, the new administrators could be very similar to the old ones.
"There will always be politics in all areas of business. Everyone is trying to get ahead," Conway said.
Clarence Harmon, who was elected mayor in 1997 after serving as police chief, told the Post-Dispatch in 2010 that politics played a big role in selecting council members.
“People don't want to join because it's an opportunity to talk nonsense. "They want to succeed because they have influence."
The Legacy of the Civil War
The debate over the future of the police comes 10 years after 152 years of state control over the Metropolitan Police Department in St Petersburg. Louis finishes.
The state-controlled government was a holdover from the Civil War, as pro-Unionist politicians in Jefferson City devised a system to fight the Unionists in St. Louis. Louis.
Then the Governor. Claiborne Jackson and pro-Southern state lawmakers want to rein in the city's union-led police department and enact reforms passed in other U.S. cities to tackle political scandals. In 1861, Jackson signed legislation creating the new council, then quickly appointed four like-minded commission members.
The transition from state-appointed commission leadership to local control in 2013 came after many years of operation in what was then St. Petersburg. Petersburg. Mayor Louis Francis Slay and other city politicians.
They argued that neither the mayor nor the city's legislative body, the Council of Elders, had direct control over the police. The mayor sits on the five-person commission that heads the department, but Slay argues he can't quickly order changes in tactics to respond to crime trends, hold police chiefs accountable for poor police performance or tell the department how to spend its budget. money. city. Money.
Financier and philanthropist Rex Sinquefield funded the state's $2 million campaign. More than 400 Missouri elected officials are registered to vote yes in the November 2012 election.
But in recent years, attitudes toward surveillance have changed as city officials crack down on crime. Republicans, who control all the levers of state government, have made crime a priority ahead of the 2024 election.
Kansas City, which does not control the police force, St. Louis Republicans is placed under a council appointed by the governor.
Mayor Quinton Lucas, who sits on the five-member council, often challenges the commission's legal decisions and voted against the creation of the special committee, which now meets in secret and illegally.
But former Councilman Conway, St. New Louis will make decisions that will cost the townspeople dearly.
"It's not necessarily state control. The five named members will live in the city," Conway said.