The Art of Deflection and Distraction

Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson and Legislature Seized the City of St Louis Police Department in 1861

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and the Legislature maintains that control 150 years later.

The blog postings State Continues to Rob St. Louis of Local Control 150 Years and Billions of Dollars Later and Governor Nixon’s Version of Blackwater Unit – St Louis Police Department point out the fact that unlike you and me, the taxpaying citizens of St. Louis City do not control their police force through their elected city officials.  It’s been that way for 150 years now and a real effort to return their police department back to the citizens is underway.  As usual, those not in favor of local control are not happy with this effort and are doing all they can to keep it from happening.

The aforementioned blogs detail how the governor hand selects appointees to the St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners.  They point out how the Board of Police Commissioners sets the policies and staffing levels for the police department. And they also point out how the city pays for the decisions of the governor and Board of Police Commissioners, but has no say other than one of the five votes on the commission.  All facts that cannot legitimately be disputed.

The blog postings pointed out that this setup — one of only two in the country, with the second in Kansas City — essentially results in the governor having his own private force, paid for with St. Louis city taxpayer money.  It’s not always popular to point out things that some would prefer go unreported or unnoticed. Sometimes when the facts are used, an attempt to deflect and distract is employed. This is what is happening on the issue of local control of the City of St. Louis Police Department.

I know that the state was shocked to hear the other day in committee that people thought the City of St. Louis was, shall we say, less than efficient.  They have too many aldermen for their size — true.  They should reduce the number of elected officials to reflect today’s environment — true.  Let there be no doubt, reform of the City of St. Louis government is long overdue. The good news is there is an effort afoot to effect changes.

The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association is attempting to create the perception the citizens of St Louis don’t want local control of their police department because of problems with city government. But the association’s efforts have  been readily discredited (Survey by police association contains biased questions, expert says). And even if the POA were correct, the people have the power to change these things – if they really want to do so.

Opponents of local control appear to darkly imply that the city is corrupt. It’s a common perception that can be heard said of almost every level of government. But most of the time there is little evidence to back up charges of corruption.

It is especially interesting that the charge of corruption is used as a reason not to return local control to the people of St. Louis. Of the government organizations involved in the local control discussion, it is not someone at City Hall who has recently abused his position and resigned in disgrace, or given a sweetheart deal to an employee involved in a car towing scandal, or been the subject of a scathing audit.  To get the stories on those, you’ll have to turn to the governor-appointed Board of Police Commissioners.

Any government entity can fall into bad times with the choice of some bad people.  Contrary to the thoughts of some, this is not an indictment of all members of that organization.  When specific issues demand accountability there is no excuse for denying or thwarting it.  When it is an elected position, the people of the entity can effect the necessary change at the ballot box.  When it is an appointed authority, the people’s control and influence is greatly reduced.

It’s time the taxpayers of the City of St. Louis saw their police force returned to them with control from their local elected officials.  If those officials fail to do the job properly, they can be changed.  Right now, the elected officials of the City of St. Louis have a legitimate excuse to those who put them office.  Let’s take that excuse away and return the police department to them.

After all, the City of St. Louis is already the No. 1 crime city. There’s nowhere to go but up!

Carl Bearden
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2 Responses to “The Art of Deflection and Distraction”

  1. […] have written several blogs regarding state control of the City of St. Louis Police Department (The Art of Deflection and Distraction, Governor Nixon’s Version of Blackwater Unit – St Louis Police Department and State Continues […]

  2. Greg Zotta says:

    “The City of St. Louis does not control its own police department…persistent and unrelenting crime problem in St. Louis. It’s no secret that St. Louis has unfortunately been ranked as the No. 1 crime-ridden city in the country…Your community would demand that action be taken to address the problem.” How does the police department being under City control change the crime problem? The Mayor does sit on the Police Board. Therefore, there is some representation from the City of St. Louis, yet there is still a crime problem. What would the 28 Alderman do to change the crime problem? The reason for the push for City control of the St. Louis Police Department is so the city can raid the police pension system. Having the police department under City control would have no effect on the crime problem, in fact it may cause an increase in crime.

    • Carl Bearden says:

      The Mayor is one of five votes which results in the final determination of policing for the citizens of St Louis City being made by individuals who are neither chosen by them nor accountable to them.

      With the current crime ratings, St Louis being #1 in the country (even if it were combined with St Louis County it would still be #7) compared to say New York City being #269, it can’t really get any worse.