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Should St. Louis' Police Department Be Run Locally?

All Missouri voters will consider the question when they see Proposition A on the Nov. 6 ballot. Approval removes state control of the city's police department.

This is one of those bizarre, "only in Missouri" situations.

On Nov. 6, every voter in Missouri has the chance to decide whether the City of St. Louis can control its own police department.

A "yes" vote would reverse more than 150 years of control by a five-member board. Four members are appointed by the Missouri governor; the St. Louis mayor is the fifth member.

You'd be hard pressed to find another large city in America that doesn't run its own police department. That is, unless you drove four hours west on I-70. Kansas City has the same issue.

But in the weirdly worded Proposition A before voters in November, residents of Springfield, Joplin, Independence and Goodnight, MO, will decide whether to end that practice—only in St. Louis.

The question asks whether the law should be amended to "allow any city not within a county (the City of St. Louis) the option of transferring certain obligations and control of the city’s police force from the board of police commissioners currently appointed by the governor to the city and establishing a municipal police force."

Just last week, the St. Louis Beacon broke the news that the union president for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police opposes Proposition A. Things are working just fine now, he said in a letter being circulated by opponents. Why change?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the existing system is a remnant of Civil War-era rivalries and was designed to be a curb against political influence in the city's police department.

Supporters of Proposition A say it will save money, eliminate outdated governance, protect cops better and very simply create local control of a local institution.

Should this measure pass? Why shouldn't the city's police department be run locally? What do you think about voters in far-flung regions of Missouri holding the department's future in their hands?

Mark Chartrand October 16, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Give them M16s and authorize them to shoot fledgling youths wandering the streets.
The Missourian October 16, 2012 at 07:47 PM
This law dates from bitter slavery supporters that couldn't deal with the fact that the smart people of STL forced MO to be a free state. So they took police control from the city as punishment for this forward thinking transgression. Whether the city wants it or not, I'm voting for it because I don't want Missourah's hands in Real Missouri's business.
Larry Bennett October 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM
If you are afraid to give the city control of it's own police department, means that you don't trust the people YOU have elected to public office. We need to make politicians more accountable for their actions in office. And shame on us if we don't do a little homework on the people running for public office.
Elizabeth October 16, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Why don't "those who know best" support local control? Do they have specific concerns that you can share here for the rest of us?
Eva Guest October 17, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Elizabeth, yes, they do. I've heard the various members of the opposition speak several times. Many are worried about current corruption in city officials seeping into the police force, while others are afraid the mayor may tap the officers' pension fund for his own pet projects. The most convincing argument for me, though, (if the others weren't enough!) is the city of St. Louis' charter was set up with a much higher population. As the population has dropped, the bureaucrats have stayed, so they have way too much power already. My answer to Prop A? Get the charter fixed first, then give the power back.

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