Police Researchers Hear What St. Louisans Think Works — And Doesn't — With Their Police
Residents of the St. Louis area are getting a chance to answer the question, what does your ideal police department look like?
That's one of the main areas of interest for the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), which is conducting a study on policing practices in the region for the advocacy group Better Together. The Forum held the first of four town hall meetings Wednesday night at a union hall in midtown to hear what residents think is working, and what can be done better.
About 70 people gathered in the auditorium of the headquarters of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 in Midtown to hear a brief introduction before breaking into three groups for discussion.
The region has 60 municipal police departments, as well as forces in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Many participants, like Saint Louis University graduate student Dane Muckler, said many of those departments simply can't afford high-quality officers.
"We need to raise the baseline level of quality in the policing in St. Louis," Muckler said.
Participants also wanted a higher level of transparency from police departments, and said officers should live in and engage with the communities they patrol.
PERF agreed to do the research before Michael Brown was shot and killed in August. But its executive director, Chuck Wexler, said he understands that Ferguson is now an essential part of the conversations he wants to have.
"That issue becomes part of the discussion, it becomes part of the narrative," he said. "Things are sort of measured against what happened here. The opportunity is that people want things to get better, and I think that’s the exciting part."
There will be three additional public hearings. Wexler said PERF's report should be finished by April.
Town Hall Meetings
- 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8, at the Lodges Des Peres (1050 Des Peres Road, 63131)
- 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church (9950 Glen Owen Drive, 63136)
- 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, location to be determined.
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann