Mo. House OK’s state takeover of St. Louis PD; legislation includes $7K annual raise for cops
Voters in 2012 had placed the department under local control for the first time in 150 years
By Jack Suntrup
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A state takeover of the St. Louis Police Department moved closer to the governor’s desk Monday after lawmakers in the Missouri House voted overwhelmingly to advance the measure to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation skated to the Senate on a 113-40 vote, with three lawmakers voting present. The city gained control of its police department a decade ago through a statewide vote after years of lobbying.
But Republicans this year have characterized local control of St. Louis’ police department as a failed experiment, pointing to recruitment and retention issues within the department and persistently high crime.
The legislation, if approved by the Senate and signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, would represent a rebuke of Democratic Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ leadership of the department.
The vote mostly fell along party lines, with all 40 in opposition coming from Democrats. Three Democrats — St. Louis Reps. Donna Baringer and Steve Butz, and Independence Rep. Robert Sauls — voted for it.
Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis County, voted against the bill after expressing support last week.
Three Kansas City Democrats — Reps. Jamie Johnson, Maggie Nurrenbern and Aaron Crossley — voted present.
The legislation includes a $7,000 annual pay raise for city police.
“It’s a very demoralized police department,” Butz said. “A ‘yes’ vote would do more to boost that morale immediately than any other way I can imagine.
“It’s a labor dispute as one of the main points,” Butz said. “If you were underpaid, overworked, understaffed, ill-equipped for your job, which is the current situation and has been for the St. Louis City Metropolitan Police Department — I just think that’s outrageous.”
Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said Republicans weren’t offering real solutions for crime, such as legislation to take guns away from unsupervised minors walking city streets.
“I hear the talking points, but what I don’t hear are real answers,” Windham said.
Returning the police department to state control would represent a landmark reversal in state policy: Missouri voters in 2012 placed the department under local control for the first time in 150 years, the result of years of lobbying by St. Louis officials.
The legislation would place Jones on a five-member board of police commissioners. The other four members would be gubernatorial appointees who would need Senate confirmation.
In a statement issued after the vote, mayoral spokesman Nick Desideri said, “Instead of focusing on measures that would actually make our communities safer — investments in left-behind communities, commonsense gun safety laws — certain Jefferson City Republicans are working overtime to turn back the clock to the 1800s. This isn’t about improving public safety; it’s about power and politics. Mayor Jones will continue working to address root causes of crime in our communities while holding those who do commit crime accountable for their actions.”
Passage of the state takeover legislation Tuesday followed approval of a separate plan that would usher in a special prosecutor appointed by the governor to handle violent crime cases in the city of St. Louis, partially sidelining St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner.
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved the legislation Monday, sending it to the Senate floor for consideration.
Gardner also faces removal proceedings initiated by Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey. Last week, his office subpoenaed Jones, as well as Comptroller Darlene Green, as part of its effort to dislodge Gardner from office.
Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican, meanwhile, sent a subpoena to Gardner last week seeking financial information after his office said she failed to meet a Feb. 14 deadline to turn over information as part of a state audit of the city.
The legislation is House Bill 702 and House Bill 301.
(c)2023 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.