It’s been relatively easy for most people around the state to understand the conservative principle of local control. Friday I wrote about Proposition A Is Jeffersonian Principles In Action!. Jefferson believed that the best government was the one closest to the people for the government function being delivered. Today, I want to talk about another conservative principle – smaller government.

Proposition A – Local Control if approved by the voters of the state will return control of the St Louis Police Department to the taxpayers and voters of St Louis City where it belongs. The state took control of the St Louis City Police Department in 1861. It’s time the citizens of St Louis got it back!

In addition to the lack of no accountability to the people paying for most of the bills, the citizens of St Louis, state control of the St Louis Police Department through a Board of Police Commissioners appointed by the Governor with consent of the Senate creates bigger government. The costs associated with the state controlled function affects not only St Louis City taxpayers but ALL state taxpayers.

State taxpayers pick up the bill in a number of ways. First, there is the expense of the appointment and confirmation process. Then there is the expense of defending the state controlled police department against liability claims by the Attorney General. An finally, there is the expense of paying out liability claims against the state controlled police department.

The cost of the appointment and confirmation process are difficult to determine. The cost of defending and paying judgments against the police department have been quantified. We state taxpayers paid out over $6 million for the “privilege” of controlling the St Louis Police Department between Fiscal Year 2006 and Fiscal Year 2010.

Does it cost the City of St Louis more money to have the state control its police department? Yes!

Not only does the City pay for the day-to-day operations of the Police Department which amounts to 1/3 of the City budget, but they also pay for duplicate services. The state controlled Board of Police Commissioners operates it’s own Human Resources, Legal, Purchasing, accounting and IT departments. How much extra does this involuntarily cost the taxpayers of St Louis? Estimates are $3.5 million per year.

As I wrote on Friday, there really is no case to be made for continuing the Civil War era policy of state control of the St Louis Police Department. There was a time in this country that such an approach was all the rage. Like most fads, state control of major metropolitan police departments faded long ago – except in St Louis and Kansas City.

Some will have you believe that the St Louis Police Department was taken over because of corruption – it wasn’t – and that it should be left with the state because of it. I addressed the specter of alleged and unproven corruption in Proposition A Is Jeffersonian Principles In Action!. Kansas City was taken over – twice – for corruption. It will not be long before the leaders and citizens ask for the police department back too. And they should get it!

Proposition A is in fact well grounded in Jeffersonian principles. For those who believe the City of St Louis should become more efficient, returning control of 1/3 of its budget for which it has essentially no control today would be a great start!

Proposition A will reduce the size of government and provide protections for police officer pensions. We will talk about that in the next blog.