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Missouri House bill to put St. Louis police under state control passes, heads to Senate

The bill would create a five-member board to oversee the department. Four of the members would be appointed by the governor. The fifth would be the St. Louis mayor.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would put the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department under state control.

House Bill 702 was passed by a vote of 113-40, of the 34 St. Louis area representatives only nine were in favor. The bill would put the department under the control of a five-member board made up of the mayor of St. Louis and four commissioners appointed by the governor of Missouri.

State Representative Brad Christ, (R-St. Louis County), sponsored House Bill 702 to put the state back in control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department because he believes city control isn’t working.

"Unfortunately, there are too many instances that led to this. Our homicide and violent crime rates have doubled. Our businesses are fleeing, over 500 have left the city of St Louis in the past two years and it has saved no money," Christ said.

The bill would also require the city to give police officers a raise by July of next year.

In a debate on the bill last week, Republican and some Democratic supporters argued the city is failing to control crime, which they said is spilling into the suburbs and hurting businesses. Black St. Louis Democrats decried the majority white, Republican-led Legislature for trying to take away control from Black leaders in the majority Black city.

A state commission oversaw the St. Louis Police Department dating back to the Civil War until 2013 when voters statewide gave power back to the city.

Another Missouri city, Kansas City, currently has one of the only police departments in the nation overseen by a state board instead of local officials.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Mayor Tisaura Jones provided the following statement Monday:

"Voters across Missouri overwhelmingly approved a 2012 ballot measure granting St. Louisans control over our own police department for the first time since the Civil War. This bill reverses the will of the voters. Instead of focusing on measures that would actually make our communities safer - investments in left-behind communities, commonsense gun safety laws - certain Jefferson City Republicans are working overtime to turn back the clock to the 1800’s. This isn’t about improving public safety; it’s about power and politics.

"Mayor Jones will continue working to address root causes of crime in our communities while holding those who do commit crime accountable for their actions."

Christ said it’s not about politics.

"It should never be a political situation to run and fund a police department. And that's what's happened over the last several years. So this will give back the foundation, the basics of funding, the basics of employment of police officers and morale so they can perform the basic job of law enforcement," Christ said.

Christ said if the senate passes it and the governor signs it, the department could be under state control by August.

In an interview with 5 On Your Side, SLMPD Chief Robert Tracy said he's always worked under local control.

"I believe in local control. And so the thing is, that's what people are asking me about. So when you look at state control, I hear positives and negatives, but I can only work in the system that I'm in and I've got to do the best job that I can and that's what I plan on doing for the City of St Louis, whether we are state or local," Tracy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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