St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says his nominations for the city's first Civilian Oversight Board will help reduce crime by improving the relationships police have with the community. He introduced his nominees Thursday in his office by saying they reflect the diversity of the city and have the best interest of St. Louis and the police department in mind.
“The most important priority in our city now, is to reduce crime. I believe that civilian involvement in our police department is a key component of our comprehensive approach to reducing crime,” Slay said.
Four of his nominees are black; three are white. Four are women; three are men. The youngest is 27; the oldest 68. Three are attorneys.
“Too often our police officers — some, not all— act in ways that don’t reflect the jobs of serving and protecting the citizens. And too often our citizens are victims of that behavior. And I wanted to be actively engaged in bringing some balance to the process of the police officers doing things that would help them be better at their jobs,” said DeBorah Ahmed, Slay’s nominee to represent district three in northwest St. Louis.
The Board of Aldermen voted on, and subsequently approved of the Civilian Oversight Board this past April. The group will review complaints about the city police department, but will not have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents.
Ahmed, who works for St. Louis nonprofit Better Family Life, said having subpoena power “would give the board more teeth,” but she won’t know whether not having the power will limit the board until it begins work in the spring.
Steve Rovak, Slay’s nominee to represent district seven in west St. Louis, believes the board will have enough information to make informed decisions despite not having subpoena power.
“We're going to have access to almost everything the internal affairs division does and that will be a great deal. So I would be very surprised to find that there are investigations where we're just missing large amounts of information. I don't think that's going to happen," Rovak said.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has until November to confirm Slay's nominations. The Civilian Oversight Board will then go through training, with the first board investigations slated to take place next spring.
The nominees for the Civilian Oversight Board are:
- Ciera Simril, District One nominee, 27, employed by US Bank
- Jane Abbott-Morris, District Two nominee, 64, self-employed
- DeBorah Ahmed, District Three nominee, 59, works at Better Family Life, Inc.
- Lawrence Johnson, District Four nominee, 68, retired
- Bradley Arteaga, District Five nominee, 49, owner of "Arteaga Photos Ltd"
- Heather Highland, District Six nominee, 39, attorney
- Steve Rovak, District Seven nominee, 67, partner at Dentons US LLP