A field operative promoting passage of Proposition A, which will appear on general election ballots statewide Tuesday, Nov. 6, came through Maryville Monday in an effort to educate local voters about the measure, which primarily affects the city of St. Louis Police Department.
Chasen Bullock of the Safer Missouri Citizens Coalition is criss-crossing northwest Missouri urging voters to back Proposition A and repeal of a 150-year-old law.
The law was created in 1861 during the Civil War, when the state government feared uprisings and took control of the police departments of the two biggest cities in the state: St. Louis and Kansas City.
To this day, both departments are governed by a nine-member committee in Jefferson City, a system that requires state funding for both cities.
In recent years there has been a push to return control of the St. Louis department to the city. A referendum in St. Louis in 2010 showed that 70 percent of those voting favored local control. This year, backers collected more than more than 160,000 signatures, enough to place Proposition A on the Missouri ballot.
The fair ballot language reads in part:
"A 'yes' vote will amend Missouri law to allow any city not within a county (the City of St. Louis) the option of establishing a municipal police force by 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."
No similar effort has materialized in Kansas City, where officials fear local control would increase fiscal burdens at the local level.
Bullock and others say the current system creates an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
"Any way you can make government more efficient, you have to do it," Bullock told the Daily Forum. "I mean, why are Maryville taxpayers paying for St. Louis police?"
Others, however, have concerns about the proposed shift and its possible impact on police records, pensions and benefits. There are also fears about transparency in law enforcement operations and the potential for officer layoffs.
The language in Proposition A, Bullock said, ensures that the city of St. Louis will not be able to take away pensions and benefits, and that there is a clause prohibiting staff reductions.
He further claimed that records would be kept open, and that the city would have to abide by the Sunshine Law just like any other municipal entity.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay recently endorsed the initiative after a 1 percent municipal earnings tax was upheld in April. Slay believes the revenue is sufficient to safeguard pensions and benefits.
By Staff Report
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Staff Report
Updated Aug. 28, 2012 @ 7:17 am
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