St Louis City is known for its politics. And for good reason, it has a long history of being affected by politics. In fact, politics is why voters in Missouri will be considering Proposition A on the ballot in November.
The St Louis Police Department was taken over by the state in 1861 to keep the largest para-military organization in the state, the St Louis Police Department from becoming a part of the Union Army possibly helping to defend the Federal Arsenal located there and to keep them out of any movement that might see Missouri consider secession.
It was politics pure and simple.
And it remains only politics that keeps the St Louis Police Department under state control today.
To put it simply: Local Control is a common-sense, good-government initiative found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson:
“It is by dividing and subdividing these republics, from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government, which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body…”
St. Louis is one of only two cities in the entire nation, Kansas City being the other and for quite different reasons, that does not control its own police department. Think about this, how would you and the citizens of your city and/or county feel if you had a state-run police department over which you had no say and represented 1/3 of your city’s budget? Jefferson City should not be in the business of controlling our police departments and they have no business controlling the St. Louis police department and 1/3 of the St Louis City budget.
I’ve been aware of and involved in this issue for more than 11 years. In fact, I was once an opponent of local control. However, I have come to realize that the issue truly shouldn’t be about trying to use the control of the St. Louis Police Department to force political change in the City which is often the case. It’s about the fundamental, conservative principle Jefferson outlined keeping government closest to the people. That’s what returning control of the police department back to the taxpayers of St. Louis, who pay the bulk of the costs would accomplish.
The question you have to ask is, just because St Louis City may be a democratically controlled city, does that mean conservative principles such as smaller government and government closest to the people should not apply? For many around the state, that answer is a resounding no –they do apply!
Opponents often raise the specter of corruption in St Louis City, but never provide any documented proof of such corruption. Most allegations are connecting ghost dots. There have been no arrests of mayors or aldermen. It’s a false attack that lingers because, unfortunately, people do not always bother to look into the facts.
Ignoring the fact that no mayor or alderman has been arrested for corruption, if that is truly the litmus test then one must be willing to accept one of two possibilities. The first is, there is no corruption anywhere else in the state. The second is, the state should be taking over lots of law enforcement agencies around the state. One of the other condition must exist for the “corruption” angle to really apply.
Applying the logic being used regarding corruption, the St. Peters Police Department should be under state control. The past Mayor of St Peters was convicted, not just alleged as in St Louis, but convicted of actual corruption. How do we know that the corruption stopped at the Mayor? According to the opponents of Prop A, state control should have been asserted!
The state controlled board of police commissioners has had more corruption issues than the Mayor or Board of Alderman. The former police chief was given a golden parachute retirement after his daughter was caught driving an impounded towed vehicle. When it was investigated, a towing scandal was unearthed and the chief suddenly retired.
A commissioner used his “Get out of jail free” card to rescue his nephew from jail. That caused quite a scandal and the commissioner resigned.
When the corruption charges are dispatched the discussion usually then goes on to concerns about “interference” by City officials. Proposition A specifically protects and prohibits retaliation against any police officer who reports conducts that may be illegal or unethical in Sections 84.341 and 84.342.
Bottom line is the Civil war has been over for nearly 150 years. The citizens of St Louis have been paying for a police department they nor their elected officials control in any substantive way. State taxpayers are exposed to liability claims for the state controlled police department every year and for the most part get nothing in return for their money.
Control of the St. Louis City Police Department was taken away from the people by a political act. There is no sound, justifiable reason for the state – all of us – to keep control of the department and not return it to the rightful owners – the taxpayers of St Louis City.
The conservative principle of local control should prevail and it means more than 4 people chosen by the Governor. Almost 70% of St Louis voters said in November 2010 they wanted their police department back. The language was quite clear on the ballot:
Unless you think it’s ok for the state to take control your local police and sheriff’s department, I would encourage you to vote YES on Proposition A! More info at www.safermissouri.com