2 min read
Posted on 07.15.10
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 07.15.10

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has asked City residents to consider a resolution on the November ballot supporting local control of the St. Louis Police Department. To whom will City voters be speaking? First, we will be speaking to many members of the Missouri General Assembly who do not represent the City. In almost every session of the General Assembly for the past few decades, legislative leaders from somewhere else have blocked consideration of measures that would return control of the City's police department to the City's taxpayers. Legislators have done this for several reasons, including ignorance, prejudice, bias, spite, ambition and fear. (Since I have never heard an outstate legislator argue that his own hometown police department should also be controlled by the state, I am confident that few of them support state control of the St. Louis police department for positive reasons.) Second, we will be speaking to those members of our own legislative delegation who have feared the wrath of the police unions more than the anger of their other constituents. A vote in favor of the resolution will remind them of the majority at whose pleasure they serve; conversely, a vote against it will reassure them that withholding their support from local control is unlikely to have political consequences. That reminder is an important one. A bill that had the support of some important legislative leaders this past session failed, in large measure, because some members of the City's own legislative delegation voted against it or missed the vote. Third, we will be speaking to the current Governor and to the next one. Gov. Nixon is certainly not the first Missouri governor to be loathe to give up a power held by his predecessors since the Civil War. A strong vote in favor of local control might give him reason to change his mind, and it would certainly send his successors an unequivocal message. Finally, we will be speaking to our neighbors who are police officers. A strong vote in favor of local control would reassure them that many City voters (i.e., the people they have sworn to serve and treat fairly) are still willing '" despite the scandals of the recent past -- to take an active interest in the activities in the police department. I plan to be discussing this subject further between now and November.