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St. Louis mayor, Missouri Attorney General clash on public safety funding

MO Attorney General Eric Schmitt offered to forgive millions owed by the City of St. Louis if the debt was used to hire more police. Mayor Tishaura Jones countered.

ST. LOUIS — When George Allen was released from prison in 2013, he walked out holding hands with family after thirty years behind bars for a rape and murder he did not commit. His family argued he was convicted of the crimes because of illegal police work, settling with the City of St. Louis and the state of Missouri for $14 million after Allen's death. 

Mayor Tishaura Jones says the City was supposed to repay the state about $5.5M for legal services during the settlement on Sept. 1, but then she says they got an offer from the Attorney General's office.

"I'm hoping he is serious about getting our first responders the support they need," Jones said in a Monday press conference.

Jones says Attorney General Eric Schmitt offered to let the City keep the money, so long as they used it to hire more police officers. But Jones said she countered with progressive policies, ideas that fall more in line with her campaign promises.

"You can call 911. But there won't be any officers to respond," Jane Dueker, attorney for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said.

Working with the police union, Dueker said she believes the City owes closer to $7 million, and she said Jones' plan ignores what she says is the best strategy for crime reduction: more officers on the street.

"Officers are departing at an alarming rate. Not a higher rate… They are departing at a record rate, which only means fewer officers on the street," she said. "Right now the maximum number of officers that will be on the streets in any given eight-hour shift is about 54. That is a very low number."

Representatives for the mayor's office said Dueker's number falls short of reality. Public Information Officer Nick Dunne said there could be approximately 54 beat officers on any given shift, but Dueker's estimate doesn't include officers from other assignments, including SWAT, special ops, district detectives, community outreach, traffic safety, and bike patrols.

Schmitt spokesperson Chris Nuelle confirmed the AG's offer telling 5 On Your Side in a statement: "We graciously offered to put this money towards hiring more officers on the ground to patrol the city and fight violent crime. It's sad that the mayor has made this a political issue and that hiring more police officers doesn't fit the agenda of the mayor of the murder capital of the United States."

Nuelle could not say how or when Schmitt might respond to the mayor's counter-offer.