From the St. Louis Police Officers Association:
The St. Louis Police Officers Association today announced that it had reached terms with Mayor Francis Slay and representatives of A Safer Missouri on a ballot initiative proposal to transfer the control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to the City of St. Louis. Under the agreement, A Safer Missouri, a political operation funded by retired investor Rex Sinquefield, would withdraw five proposed Constitutional Amendments that they had filed in March of this year that would have placed the question of local control of the St. Louis and Kansas City police departments before Missouri voters in 2012. The St. Louis Police Officers Association had adamantly opposed the constitutional amendments and had filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court challenging the legality of the proposals on a number of counts.
A Safer Missouri would instead file a Statutory Proposition for the November 2012 election that would mirror the compromise legislation that the Mayor, A Safer Missouri, and the Police Officers Association had agreed to during the regular and special sessions of the Missouri General Assembly. The legislation contained agreed upon language that added protections for the current and retired employees. The compromise proposals became mired in legislative gridlock over Economic Development bills that brought the entire legislative process to a screeching halt during those sessions.
In exchange for the concessions made on issues like pensions, benefits, residency rules and prohibitions against political interference that are included in the compromise ballot initiative, the Police Officers Association has agreed to withdraw its lawsuit against the previous Sinquefield-funded proposals and support the newly filed initiative.
Police Officers Association business manager Jeff Roorda described the agreement on the ballot initiatives as a monumental compromise. "This is the way things are supposed to work. We came to the table and shared our concerns with the idea of local control of the department with our opposition. They negotiated with us to reach terms on protecting cops' pensions and benefits and keeping the department free from undue political interference and we reached an accord that both sides could live with" Roorda said. "We were hoping to advance that compromise through the legislature but as long as they are bogged-down in squabbles over separate issues which are beyond our control, we have no choice but to pursue the compromise that we reached through the ballot box. We just ran out of time for cooler heads to prevail in the legislature."
The president of the Police Officers Association, David Bonenberger, acknowledged that reaching and agreeing to the compromise was no small task. "I've been very outspoken about my concerns with the city controlling the police department. However, in the face of a constitutional amendment that we could not live with, reaching an accord on a statutory proposition that better protected the pensions and benefits of our active members, retirees, and their families was our best case scenario," Bonenberger said.
Roorda said that he expected the withdrawal of the Constitutional Amendments and the Association's lawsuit as well as the filing of the compromise ballot initiative to happen as early as this afternoon. Under the compromise ballot initiative, the City of St. Louis would be able to establish control of the police department on July 1, 2013. The compromise initiative includes several provisions for the smooth transfer of the department from state control to city control including the establishment of a five-person transition committee.
Propositions placed on the ballot by initiative petition require a simple majority of those voting in a statewide election for passage. Unlike the earlier Constitutional Amendments filed by A Safer Missouri that would have created a constitutional requirement that cities control their own police departments, the compromise proposition would make changes to the existing statutes governing the control and operation of the St. Louis Police Department. The Kansas City Police Department would not be included in the new initiative and will continue to fall under state control.