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Mo. Senate committee hears STL police bill

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By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Supporters and opponents of local control for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department returned today to the State Capitol to plead their cases.

Like its House counterpart, the Senate bill would allow the city of St. Louis to run its own police force, which has been under state control since the Civil War.

Mayor Francis Slay sought to reassure a State Senate committee that the city has no interest in changing residency requirements or taking control of police pensions.

"If you all want to keep the pension money set up under state statute, that's fine with me...I'm hoping that you take that responsibility very, very seriously, handle it responsibly, manage them properly," Slay said.

He then jokingly added: "And of course if you want to pay for them that would be great, too."

Opponents testified that the city would try to find a way to control pensions. Joe Steiger of the St. Louis Police Officers Association also said that under local control, city aldermen would, in effect, become little police chiefs within their districts.

"I've heard many, many stories and seen first hand some of the Board of Aldermen trying to influence investigations, crossing police lines...this is going to happen," Steiger said.

But 15th Ward Alderman Jennifer Florida testified that members of the state board that oversees the police department often have little or no background in law enforcement.

The Senate Committee on General Laws did not vote on the bill at its meeting Tuesday.

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