St. Louis Public Radio News
12:42 am
Tue February 16, 2010

Lawmakers hear St. Louis police local control bill

Jefferson City, Mo. – A Missouri House committee heard testimony Monday night on a bill that would give the city of St. Louis control over its police department.

Mayor Francis Slay told the House Special Committee on Urban Issues that he wants to improve salaries and training, fix the pension fund, and explore public safety options with St. Louis County.

"But none of these decisions are up to me, nor are they up to our elected officials, nor to our residents, nor to our businesses...ultimately, these decisions are with the governor and with (the General) Assembly," Slay said.

The bill would not, however, make any changes to police pensions. But opponents fear it could embolden city leaders to push for oversight of pensions in the future.

A five-member board appointed by the governor has overseen the city's police force since the Civil War.

A few dozen police officers traveled to Jefferson City to oppose the bill. Heather Taylor is a St. Louis police sergeant and member of the group Ethical Society of Police.

"I would rather have five votes instead of just one...if the mayor appoints a Chief of Police that's under the Public Safety Department, that's it...with five voices, I feel as if maybe they'll come to a fair consensus," Taylor said.

The bill's sponsor, State Representative Jamilah Nahsheed (D, St. Louis), told the committee that under state control, the Metropolitan Police Department is not fighting crime effectively. She also said the bill would not make any changes to residency requirements.

The House Special Committee on Urban Issues did not take a vote on the bill at Monday's meeting.