The Missouri Auditor has released an audit of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. I’ve reviewed it, and I have some thoughts about it.
Most City neighborhoods are safer than they have been in years. You have to give the Police Department credit for much of that.
On the other hand, keeping enough police officers on the street — while pension and health care costs have skyrocketed has meant cutting police administration significantly over the last decade. Fewer administrators have meant less administration. That was certainly a factor in what is a generally bad audit.
But, it is not everything. This is a police department that needed change.
Chief Dan Isom was promoted to return credibility to the department, uncover wrongdoing, and improve the department’s administration.
He is doing that. Since his promotion, the chief has not hesitated to air the department’s dirty laundry, change long-time practices, and challenge an outdated culture to improve the department’s operations. As the audit notes, Chief Isom has made real progress in his short time on the job.
But, that is not enough.
The police department sorely needs more direct accountability. If the citizens of St. Louis rather than the State of Missouri controlled the police department, the department would be that much more accountable to the people who pay the bills rather than to people in Jefferson City who don’t have the time or inclination to pay attention to its daily operations.
The current structure of governance may have served the City well during the Civil War, 1904 World’s Fair, and World War II. But, it is badly outdated and no longer works. It is time to change.