State lawmaker proposes eliminating smaller police departments in St. Louis County

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A new proposal may bring sweeping changes to policing in St. Louis County and cut the number of separate departments from more than 50 to fewer than 25.

Drive through St. Louis County and you often run into an alphabet soup of tiny police departments.

It’s only like that in St. Louis County, nowhere else in the state.

State Rep. Justin Hill (R-St. Charles County) wants to change that. He’s a former cop. For his opponents, he has one question: why not?

“It’s safer,” he said. “It’s more efficient, that’s for sure. A lot of these agencies aren’t even doing their own homicide investigations. They’re just writing tickets.”

When the small municipality of Hillsdale had a double homicide over the weekend, its police department called in St. Louis County Police to investigate. Days earlier, the small municipality of Calverton Park had a homicide. Its department called in the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis.

“You have so many agencies, you have a hard time deconflicting investigations,” Hill said. “So you don’t know if this agency is investigating this person, or this agency, or this agency, because in a five-square-mile area, you could have eight police departments.”

Hill is a former O’Fallon, Missouri police officer who worked on an undercover drug task force in St. Louis County.

He has pre-filed a bill for the next legislative session requiring that in counties with 950,000 people and cities with no more than 5,000 residents covering no more than two square miles, police departments must be disbanded with municipalities contracting with larger departments for police services.

The bill is tailored so it only impacts St. Louis County, Hill said.

He’s winning support from a Democratic state senator in the City of St. Louis.

“I’ve always been for consolidation,” said State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis City). “I think we can consolidate on a lot of different fronts. This is the first step. I’m elated we’re taking this first step to consolidating the law enforcement community.”

In the wake of the Ferguson protests, the Ferguson Commission took issue with small departments dependent upon ticket revenue from poorer residents.

Still, residents tell us they favor smaller departments and a “neighborhood feel.”
The affected police chiefs were meeting Tuesday to come up with a coordinated response.

Normandy Police Chief Frank Mininni said he plans to invite Hill to spend a day at his department to show that Hill’s bill is too far-reaching and shortsighted.

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