NORMANDY, Mo. – Small police departments in St. Louis County have a message for a lawmaker who wants to drive them out of existence: leave us alone.
Normandy Police Chief Col. Frank Mininni is inviting that lawmaker to spend a day with his department.
“Absolutely, just so he can ride along and get a feel for it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair for someone in Lake St. Louis, which is about 37 miles away, to speak for the citizens in our community that we serve every day.”
State Rep. Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis) has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming state legislative session. It would require that in counties with 950,000 people, cities with no more than 5,000 residents, and covering no more than 2 square miles, would have to disband their police departments and contract for police services with larger departments.
Normandy is right on the cusp. Its population is hovering around 5,000 though its police officers now police smaller municipalities like Cool Valley, which has already disbanded their departments.
Still, a virtual alphabet soup of small departments remains. But too many depend upon traffic ticket revenue to survive, Hill said. He estimated his bill would cut the number of departments in St. Louis County from 55 to 33.
“We certainly don’t want the police department writing tickets to tax non-residents to pay for their existence just so they can have their own police department,” Hill said.
Normandy’s officers wrote more than 6,600 tickets last year.
Chief Mininni said research brought on by the Ferguson protests of 2014 showed his department had a 95 percent citizen approval rating and was twice certified department in the state of Missouri – with crime down nearly 50 percent.
“You see the opioid crisis. You see the carjacking crisis. You see the homicide rate going up. You can’t tell me that taking the Normandy Police Department and all 29 of our officers out of here and replacing them with maybe three or four from a contract agency is going to make anything better,” Mininni said.
“I’ll lose some safety and I’ll lose the ability every 15 or so minutes to wave at the police going by. That’s a very big deal,” said Bill McCreary, a resident of Bellerive Acres, which contracts with Normandy for police services.
“I feel safer [with Normandy Police] because it’s about two blocks from my house. They patrol all the time,” said Normandy resident Cathy McNeal.
Hill's bill already has bipartisan support and may get traction when the new legislative session begins in less than three weeks. The police chiefs will meet next month to coordinate their response.