Petition Drive for Local Control of Police Sparks Protest over Civilian Oversight
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A petition drive kicks off for local control of the St. Louis police department — but protestors warn the plan lacks civilian oversight and could violate the state’s Sunshine Law.
Mayor Slay signed the top of the petition, seeking a statewide ballot issue to let voters decide whether the St. Louis police department should be controlled by city hall rather than the Governor.
“It is time for local control of the St. Louis Police Department,” Slay said, “The people of St. Louis pay the bills. It is their city. And the customers of the police department are the people of St. Louis and they should be accountable to the people of St. Louis.”
Protestors picketing outside the petition signing warned the plan would not make city police accountable to enough “civilian review” and “transparency.”
“The trust of the police department is at an all time low,” said Jamala Rogers with the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, “And they continue to coverup and continue to justify the wrongdoings of the police department.”
Rogers says her group has long sought the establishment of a civilian review board that would give appointed citizens a seat at the table when police conduct internal investigations of officer-involved shootings and allegations of police wrongdoing. She opposes the local control plan outlined in the petition drive, because it fails to set up a civilian review board.
“If you have a shooting that’s questionable and controversial, you can’t ask questions, nor can you get in there and get records that would help you come to conclusion about the facts of the matter,” Rogers said.
The petition in favor of local control was also signed by Jeff Roorda, business manager with the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association.
“Let’s not get distracted by cop haters that are trying to drive a wedge, when we’re coming to the table trying to find a way to make this department work better,” Roorda said. “Civilian review boards do not work. They’ve never worked anywhere they’ve been tried. They’ve got one function, and one function alone, and that’s to drive a wedge between the police department and the community.”
Slay noted that the petition drive “doesn’t preclude” future efforts to bring about more civilian oversight.
Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union sued to block the referendum, saying the ballot language weakens the state’s Sunshine law by giving the city’s civil service commission sole authority over all disciplinary matters and close the records to everyone else.