The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is one step closer to being back under state control after a bill was approved by the Missouri House Monday, only a decade after the city regained control of its police.
The bill, sponsored by St. Louis Republican Rep. Brad Christ, would place control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in the hands of a police board of commissioners, which would be made up of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a former Democratic member of the Missouri House, and four commissioners appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
The makeup of the board would be nearly identical to the one that controls the Kansas City Police Department, which is a rare setup and often a contentious topic. Kansas City is the only city in Missouri with a police department controlled by the state.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and several Kansas City area lawmakers and leaders have been pushing for more local control of the city’s police department, but have been largely unsuccessful. The effort to place St. Louis police back under state control will certainly diminish the likelihood of Kansas City regaining control of its police department with the current legislature.
Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, a St. Louis Democrat, said it is important to acknowledge the history of police boards in Missouri, which were created in Civil War-era racism. She also pointed out that St. Louis’ mayor is a Black woman and the city has a high population of Black residents.
“This bill within itself is infringing directly on the rights of people of the City of St. Louis in order to vote,” Bosley said.
Rep. Barbara Phifer, a St. Louis Democrat, said she was opposed to the bill because there was no evidence presented that showed shifting control would actually solve the problem of violence in the city.
“I think everybody here would agree we have a problem with violence in the City of St. Louis,” Phifer said. “No one has given us any evidence that this bill would help correct the problem.”
While debating the bill on March 1, Rep. Rasheen Aldrige, a St. Louis Democrat, questioned if state control would really help stop crime, and pointed out the three Kansas City police officers that were shot and injured Feb. 28 while executing a search warrant as an example of crime levels in a city where police are controlled by a state board of commissioners.
Kansas City also had 171 killings in 2022, making it the second deadliest year for the city. The record for deadliest year was set in 2020 when 182 people were killed.
Aldridge pointed out that several of the lawmakers sponsoring versions of this legislation don’t live in St. Louis. He suggested they reach out to the lawmakers from St. Louis to collaborate on how best to handle crime in the city.
Christ said the bill is intended to curb crime in a city he said has been inundated with violence. During the Feb. 28 debate, he discussed issues like long wait times for first responders and businesses being hesitant to open in the city as pressing consequences of the crime.
“It’s insane how bad the crime situation has become in St. Louis,” Christ said.
However, violent crime declined in St. Louis between 2020 and 2021, according to data from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.