ST. LOUIS – One Missouri state lawmaker claims his newly-introduced legislation would “make St. Louis safe again.”
Rep. Nick Schroer (R-District 2), whose jurisdiction represents parts of St. Charles County, introduced SB 78 earlier this month. The legislation has already made some rounds in the state house and is set for a committee hearing Wednesday morning.
The bill calls for some notable changes in police operations within St. Louis City. In particular, it proposes a board of police commissioners to oversee a police department, rather than the St. Louis mayor’s office.
Pertaining to that issue, voters approved a measure in 2012 that gave control of the department to the mayor’s office. For more than 150 years before that, the agency operated under a police board rather than local control.
“At current rates, over the next 4 years, more people will have been murdered in City of St. Louis under local control than were killed on 9/11,” Schroer told FOX 2’s Emily Manley on Wednesday morning.
Several Missouri lawmakers have formed variations of this bill in an effort to reverse back to board control. Like Schroer’s bill, they are pushing for change for any Missouri city not specifically located within a county, like St. Louis City. The only other municipality that would follow such criteria is the city of Kansas City, Missouri, which already functions under control of a police board.
Schroer’s legislation also notes that St. Louis City could pass public safety ordinances as long as it doesn’t interfere with the power of a police board. It also would allow the board to adopt “investigative and disciplinary procedures” for the city’s department.
While promoting his legislation on social media Tuesday, he asked people to question whether crime impacts their plans to attend Cardinals and Blues games. He also contends “so much potential in our historic, beautiful city [goes] to waste.”
“Let’s take back control of our city and maintain law and order,” said Schroer via Twitter. “Let’s protect our city from criminals that disregard our laws and put lives at risk. Let’s make St. Louis safe again! Let’s bring sanity back to St. Louis and watch our state prosper!”
Along with the push for a board to operate the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department comes some opposition from local state lawmakers, including Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-78th District).
“Solving the issue of crime in urban areas is much more complex than simply throwing more police at the problem, and these bills target St. Louis City residents and deprive them and their local elected officials of the ability to adopt innovative strategies to combat violent crime,” said Aldridge in a statement to FOX 2 last month.
Aldridge also noted that Kansas City’s current arrangement presents some concerns, such as state interests superseding local needs and the department’s oversight procedures.
He suggests lawmakers should instead focus on legislation that resolves underlying issues that cause crime, such as a lack of quality employment opportunities and affordable healthcare, among other factors.
“I invite these representatives to tour St. Louis with me and witness the local work being done to assist some of the most underserved communities in the state, and I promise to those who elected me that I will fight against these bills with every fiber of my being.”
Meanwhile, the Ethical Society of Police released this statement Wednesday afternoon on Schroer’s legislation:
“The Ethical Society of Police is proud to support Senate Bill 78. Returning the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department back under state control is paramount to the brave men and women in uniform and the citizens and residents we protect and serve. The decade-long experiment of local control has failed. For too long, the focus of local control has been the focus of controlling budgets rather than prioritizing the fundamental changes needed to improve the department. As a result, more energy is spent on localized debates over police presence in various communities within the city rather than supporting the men and women who do the job. State control is not about protecting the profession. It’s about protecting the people who work in the profession; those who don the badge stand up for what is right in the City of St. Louis and our great state.
The Ethical Society of Police extends its unwavering support and is proud to have worked hand in hand with Senator Nick Schroer on this vital piece of legislation. We thank him for his continued hard work and dedication to law enforcement with Senate Bill 78.”