Many of you are probably not aware that the Missouri state government controls both the St. Louis and Kansas City police departments under a law that dates back to the Civil War.
City officials from St. Louis are seeking to have control of their police department. Proposition A, commonly referred to as the "Local Control Initiative" will appear on the November ballot, and Missouri voters will be asked to restore the control of the St. Louis Police Department to the people of St. Louis.
In 1861, the control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was taken from the city and given to a special commission made up of political appointees who were chosen by Missouri's governor. This was a Civil War law that was intended to keep firepower out of the hands of a pro-Union city in a largely pro-Confederate state. Today, the outdated law still remains in place, even though now it clearly makes no sense. The reason this initiative requires a statewide vote is because it is a state law and for it to be changed requires a vote of all the people.
Getting the state of Missouri out of the business of controlling the St. Louis police department and restoring local control will increase the efficiency and the accountability of the department. It will also reduce state and local costs necessary to run the police department, saving the state and local taxpayers millions of dollars. In fact, according to the Missouri Auditor's office, the passing of this initiative could save taxpayers an estimated $4.5 million per year. The savings will come from the removing of duplicated services in the areas of purchasing, legal services, and the police's personnel department. In addition, the state of Missouri is currently liable for up to $500,000 per year to pay for any lawsuits involving the department.
If the initiative passes the state will no longer have any liability for these costs or the cost for the state commission, which currently governs the St. Louis Department. The passage of this initiative specifically guarantees that no police officers will be laid off during the transition to local control. It also protects the pension benefits and collective bargaining rights of St. Louis police officers. The initiative is strongly supported by the St. Louis Police Officer's Association, the mayor of the city of St. Louis, as well as local city officials and community leaders.
In November of 2010, a local referendum of St. Louis voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of restoring local control to the St. Louis Police Department. Rural voters will see benefits of returning the department to city local control because local control leads to better and more efficient government.
Official language that will appear of the November ballot will read as follows:
"Shall Missouri law be amended to:
• allow any city not within a county (the city of St. Louis) the option of transferring certain obligations and control of the city's police force from the board of police commissioners currently appointed by the governor to the city and establishing a municipal police force;
Page 2 of 2 - • establish certain procedures and requirements for governing such a municipal police force, including residency, rank, salary, benefits, insurance, and pension;
• prohibit retaliation against any employee of such municipal police force to report conduct believed to be illegal to a superior, government agency, or the press?
A "yes" vote will amend Missouri law to allow the city of St. Louis the option of establishing a municipal police force by transferring control of the city's police force from the board of police commissioners currently appointed by the governor of Missouri to the city.
A "no" vote will not change the existing Missouri law regarding the St. Louis city police force. If passed, the measure will have no impact on current taxes, but it is estimated to potentially save the state $4.5 million.
Today, if a resident of the city of St. Louis were to have a problem with the local police department, he or she would have to call the governor's office and go before the special commission. Passage of Proposition A will return accountability to the voters in their local jurisdiction.
At this time, Kansas City is not seeking to regain local control of their police department.
If you wish to contact me this week about a State problem, please feel free to contact me by using one of the following means. Mail: Bill Reiboldt, Office 235-BB, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Telephone: (573) 751-9781. Personal cell phone: 417-456-0441. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bill Reiboldt represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives.