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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The St. Louis County Council asked questions Tuesday to county police departments in a virtual meeting that lasted more than one hour. One prominent question asked stemmed from protesters’ calls to defund the police.

St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton has been on the force since 1978; she’s been chief since May 1. The council peppered her with questions on what will be done to improve police-community relations, and what the procedure is for dealing with handcuffed suspects. The council also asked if greater efforts are being made to recruit African Americans to the force.

Another issue raised to Barton asked her about a possible defunding of police and using that money for a different approach to fighting crime. This question has been asked of police in Minneapolis and departments across the country recently. Barton cautioned people calling for this action, saying they need to have a plan in place first.

“I realize that now is a time of great anger and frustration and sometimes taking an approach that might not be well thought out – maybe ill-advised, what I would tell people who want to defund the police, two things,” Barton said. “Number one: you can’t just defund the police. You have to have a program or a plan in place of how you’re going to train these people, how you’re going to accomplish this mission you see that would be better for the community. You can’t just throw everything out.”

She also said it would be worse for those residents living in high-crime areas who depend on the police to be there.

The police board said they’ve met with the council four times a year to keep the council up to date on any issues.