ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - St. Louis County NAACP President John Gaskin says after reviewing the Better Together plan that it's clear that a united region would spur much needed criminal justice reform and also strengthen the African American community socially and economically.
“I say eighty-percent of the calls we get each week are from citizens who have been mistreated by municipal police departments,” said Gaskin.
Gaskin says that one police department with one municipal court will provide equal justice. He also says change can be difficult for people to accept. Especially, when there have been 200 years of this government structure.
“It’s very sad to hear what people are saying on why they don’t want to merge city and county. What are they saying? All kinds of things, like look what happened to Michael Brown, glad that happened. That’s why we are glad we moved away from Ferguson. That’s why we moved west, out of the city or away from north county,” he said.
While the county NAACP is on board, the city NAACP isn’t yet.
"We are in the middle of assessing our position on Better Together. One piece we are concerned about is the criminal justice system plan. Right now, we don't see how merging the 21st & 22nd judicial circuits would help black voters and judges," said President Adolphus Pruitt.
Both groups cite criminal justice reform as a top priority for considering Better Together. Michael Wrighton, Unite STL's chairman, says the merger would also financially benefit the everyone in the region.
“Our economic progress is being retarded by our lack of cohesiveness. The fragmentation is expensive and inefficient and unfair to many people in our community,” said Wrighton.
Gaskin says he is meeting with Pruitt at the start of next week to discuss the Better Together plan. Gaskin also said he had resigned from the St. Louis economic development partnership and is now working on the Unite STL campaign for Better Together.