ST. LOUIS – Missouri lawmakers have pre-filed several bills calling for a change in control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The agency currently operates under control of the St. Louis mayor’s office. Lawmakers have proposed at least four new bills for a board of police commissioners to oversee the department instead.
Among the state lawmakers who have pre-filed legislation for change are Reps. Ron Copeland (R – District 143) and Chad Perkins (R – District 40) and Rep-Elects. Justin Sparks (R – District 110) and Jeff Myers (R – District 42), according to LegiScan.com records.
None of the lawmakers hold House seats that represent St. Louis City. Sparks, the only lawmaker among the four representing part of neighboring St. Louis County, has previously served as an officer within the county.
According to language in Sparks’ pre-filed bill, “The purpose of these procedures and requirements is to provide for an orderly and appropriate transition in the governance of the police force and provide for an equitable employment transition for commissioned and civilian personnel.”
The bill is pushing for any Missouri city not specifically located within a county, like St. Louis City, to assign ownership of funds, property and other assets to the board of police commissioners. 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.
Regarding the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, 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.
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. “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.”
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 health care among other factors.
The 2023 legislative session, when these bills can be debated among Missouri lawmakers, begins Jan. 4 in Jefferson City.