I went to Jeff City today to express my support for HB 2117, which would allow the people of St. Louis to have their own police department for the first time since the Civil War.
This is what I planned to tell legislators:
Nearly 150 years ago, the State of Missouri took control of the police department away from its two border cities because it was afraid the police departments would be used against Missouri’s militia during the Civil War. Missouri wasn’t the only state that acted this way — and St. Louis and Kansas City weren’t the only cities so treated.
Unfortunately, the state never got around to yielding control of the departments. And St. Louis and Kansas City are the only cities or counties in the State of Missouri — and among only a few in the entire country without their own police departments.
There is no rational explanation for this omission. Every other county and municipality in the State of Missouri has its own police department, while St. Louis and Kansas City do not. St. Louis taxpayers pay the bills for the police department, but have no say in how the department uses the money.
This is not about one mayor or one police board. It is about the people of St. Louis having a voice in the governance of their police department. Chief Mokwa and I happen to work very well together. As a result, the inherent weakness of the governance structure is currently minimized — and crime is going down dramatically in the City. But future mayors and future chiefs could return to historic patterns of disagreement with tragic results.
I do not support any change to the governance of the police pension system.
For better accountability, for more responsive government, and to ensure the effectiveness of the police department long into the future, it is time for the State of Missouri to return the St. Louis Police Department to the people of St. Louis.