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St. Louis police to get business-funded review

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is partnering with the city to conduct the review
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has accepted a privately-funded review of the St. Louis Police Department’s policies and practices – essentially the same review announced for the St. Louis County Police Department last week.

Krewson announced the upcoming review during her Wednesday Facebook Live briefing, noting that retired Philadelphia Police Commissioner Chuck Ramsey will be leading the effort. Ramsey is a nationally known policing consultant, who also served as the co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is partnering with the city to conduct the review, which is being paid for by Civic Progress companies and the Regional Business Council.

“This is about acknowledging that Black Lives Matter, and that in our city, far too many Black lives are lost to violence. It is about believing that community policing and the duty to intervene are essential, and that continued de-escalation, implicit bias, and racial equity training are critical,” Krewson wrote in a press release.

The review will look at everything from how the department spends its money and uses its resources, tools and technologies, its crime strategies, its policing style, organizational structure, internal and external perceptions, de-escalation techniques and how it works with other departments.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced a similar review of the St. Louis County Police Department last week, drawing the ire of some members of his Police Board of Commissioners who said they did not have any input into the selection of the reviewing agencies or how it would be done.

But the city no longer has a police board. That disappeared when the the city regained control of the department from the state in 2013, so it can proceed with the review. 

In St. Louis County, however, Police Board Chairperson William "Ray" Price told 5 On Your Side that the board will have to see the scope of work and a detailed description of the study before it's able to go forward. 

"We run the department, the county does not, but we need to cooperate and be collaborative with anybody that’s seeking to help the police department," Price said. "As I understand it, it’s an independent outside study and we would be cooperating with it. 

"From my point of view, I want to cooperate with anybody looking for way to make the county police department a better place and help us do a better job."

RELATED: St. Louis County, Urban League announce independent review of police department

The St. Louis County Police Department is no stranger to outside reviews -- especially in recent years.

In 2013, then Chief Tim Fitch tapped the University of California-Los Angeles’ Center for Policing Equity to review the department’s protocols on traffic stops and recommend ways to avoid racial profiling. He had just fired a lieutenant accused of ordering officers to racially profile Black people at south St. Louis County shopping centers.

But it never happened. 

The St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners nixed the idea. 

Former Chief Jon Belmar tapped the same entity in 2019 to work with a Diversity and Inclusion Unit he formed after a jury awarded a gay police sergeant who alleged discrimination from Belmar’s administration $20 million. That group recently pulled out of working with the department, Price said.

"Those are things where we want to see improvement and we will have to regroup and see what we can do," Price said. "We went to them when we were having trouble getting a request for proposals through during the COVID problems. 

"When they examined what it would take to work with us, it would require them hiring additional people and they weren’t in a position to do that. It slows us down tremendously but it's unavoidable."

Price said the board does not have the information it needs to know whether the diversity review ordered after the verdict will proceed given the review Page's office is pushing, or if they'll just stick with one review.

"Until we know what’s happening with that review, we can’t speculate," he said.

The head of the reviews that Page and Krewson have endorsed is also familiar with St. Louis and its two largest police departments.

Shortly after the Ferguson protests gained national attention in 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice sent Ramsey to oversee St. Louis County’s participation in a collaborative reform agreement. It was a voluntary federal review of the department’s policies and practices.

Belmar told the St. Louis County Police Board of Commissioners in 2014 that he often consulted with Ramsey about how to respond to Ferguson-related issues.

In October 2015, Ramsey’s collaborative reform team gave the St. Louis County Police Department a 182-page report with 50 findings and 109 recommendations. Federal officials promised at least two progress reports would follow.

The leadership of the Department of Justice then changed when President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

And Belmar said he never received any follow-up reports in 2017 and that he didn’t know whether his department was any better because of the process, which he called a “missed opportunity.”

Ramsey also is familiar with the city’s police department.

In May 2015, then Chief Sam Dotson invited Ramsey to be the keynote speaker during the St. Louis Police Foundation breakfast.

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