ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Faced with news it could soon be disbanded, the state-appointed St. Louis Police Board proceeded with business as usual at its monthly board meeting, and avoided the topic of returning control of the police department from the state to city hall.
The meeting came a day after Mayor Slay’s office and the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association announced a tentative deal has been struck to restore local control of the police department for the first time in 150 years.
Pressed for reaction after wards, Board Chair Bettye Battle-Turner had no comment. Turner was asked if she’s concerned the local takeover could subject the department to political meddling from city hall.
“This is not the proper time for me to engage in comments about local control,” Turner said, “The police board as a whole has to make a decision… Then we’ll be free to make an announcement as to our reactions.”
Police Chief Dan Isom also had nothing to say during the meeting about the local control issue, but he commented afterward.
“Fundamentally, our mission doesn’t change,” Isom said, “We are here to protect and serve the citizens of St. Louis no matter who has control of the police department, and we will continue to do that.”
Isom says he does not believe local control will make the department more vulnerable to political interference in police matters.
“Each individual has to take responsibility for the decisions that they make,” Isom said, “No one will force you do anything inappropriate that you don’t have to do.”
The changeover now hinges on several things– passage of legislation in Jefferson city restoring local control, Governor Nixon’s signature of the bill, and ratification of a collective bargaining agreement between officers and the department.
Mayor Slay, who has pushed for local control, was the only member of the board who seemed buoyant, wearing a bright spring neck tie and chatting with reporters about his optimism the deal will go through.
“I’m very confident that ultimately it’s going to happen,” Slay said, “When, I guess, is the question.”
Slay says he was waiting to hear back from Governor Nixon to ask for his support, and he predicted that a compromise would be reached soon to overcome obstacles in the collective bargaining talks with police. What those obstacles are, he wouldn’t say.
When asked if he still has full faith and confidence in Chief Isom to run the department under local control, Slay says, yes, he does, without hesitation.
Isom says his future plans center around being chief for the foreseeable future.