ST. LOUIS — Missouri lawmakers on Thursday filed a series of bills that would rescind local control of the city of St. Louis' police department, returning power to a state-run board, a move the local union representing officers says it supports.
Four sponsors so far have filed bills for the upcoming January session targeting local control: Rep. Bennie Cook, R-Houston; Rep. Justin Sparks, R-Wildwood; Rep. Jeff Myers, R-Warrenton; and Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green. While the details in each bill vary, they all include language calling for transferring control of the St. Louis police to the state.
"Crime has been a problem in St. Louis for awhile, and legislators are starting to take note of that," said Jay Schroeder, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
The union has always supported state-board control, he said.
"It takes the political aspect of policing out of it," Schroeder said. "You don't have all the outside noise directing day-to-day police work. You get a chief, he sticks to his plan, he does the enforcement part of it, the programs. It seemed to work better that way."
While similar bills have been filed in past years, the move Thursday comes amid fresh calls from St. Charles County's leader to reexamine local control and create a single prosecutor position that would cover the city and St. Louis County, in hopes the moves could reduce a city crime rate that attracts bad publicity for the slow-growing region.
And it comes as the Missouri House speaker-elect, Dean Plocher, is from St. Louis County, and understands "the perception of rampant crime is a jobs-killer, both from tourism dollars lost and in attracting and retaining employers," Business Journal columnist Dave Drebes reported last month.
Plocher, an attorney with Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch LC in Clayton, "has signaled that addressing public safety will be one of his top priorities," Drebes' Missouri Scout news service reported Wednesday.
Plocher didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones' office said in a statement Thursday that it isn't commenting on bills filed before the next legislative session.
"We are following the legislative process in Jefferson City and will work to further the interests of St. Louis City and our residents," her office said. The city's lobbyists in Jefferson City, the state capital, are Jacqueline Bardgett and Chris Roepe of Bardgett & Associates, state records say.
Read more of the story on the St. Louis Business Journal's website.
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