It’s almost been amusing to watch and read the latest and greatest reason du jour for not returning control of their police department to the taxpayers of St Louis City. Kinda reminds me of the “whack-a-mole” game. You knock down one false reason not to return local control and up pops another.
The latest false reason du jour making the rounds is that somehow there will be fewer “checks and balances” on the St Louis Police Department if local control is returned. It’s been around for a few weeks, but with the failure of the other attempts to stick to the wall, this one seems to be attempting a comeback.
The opponents of local control allege that everywhere but St Louis City, counties provide a check and balance to municipal police powers that would not exist in St Louis. The assertion is that somehow because the state controls the St Louis police department, there is a built in check and balance. It’s completely false, but like most of the assertions against local control, it only has to sound scary to be trotted around the track.
Counties perform no such “check and balance” anywhere. Counties do provide buildings and sometimes some staffing, such as additional clerks or juvenile officers to the State Court system located in that county, but otherwise have no interaction with or over “municipal police powers.” Municipal police have to go to the county prosecutor, not the county, when they are seeking arrest warrants and criminal charges. In reality, the county prosecutor is actually a state official not a county official. It is the state that provides the so-called “checks and balances,” not the county.
St Louis City has both municipal and county functions. The State Court in St Louis City is controlled by the state, not the city, just as it is in every other county. The judges are appointed using the same system as St Louis County, Jackson County and Greene County. There is no city role in the appointment of the state judges. The “county prosecutor” is called the “circuit attorney” in St Louis City and functions exactly the same way as any other county prosecutor.
In St. Louis, the municipal police force — though state-governed — goes to the circuit attorney when seeking arrest warrants and criminal charges, just like every where else in the state. If Local Control passes, that function will remain completely unchanged.
Wonder what the next reason du jour will be to keep the taxpayers of St Louis from having a say over their police department by returning local control? So far, none of the reasons not to have held water.