STL Board of Aldermen passes bill ‘strengthening’ police, jail oversight boards

Prominent city police organizations have voiced opposition to the bill.
Published: Jul. 16, 2022 at 9:58 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted to pass a bill Friday giving the city’s civilian jail and police oversight boards more power.

Seventeen alderpersons voted in favor of the bill. The legislation moves both oversight boards into the city’s Department of Public Safety, making the members paid city employees, giving them direct access to city leaders, as well as access to use-of-force and misconduct complaints.

The bill also gives St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner the authority to create a Public Integrity Unit, which would be another group looking into police misconduct.

The Ethical Society of Police, a police organization for St. Louis City and County cops, and the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association publicly criticized the bill, calling it “too broad,” lacking input from police and not giving the organizations enough time to review the proposed legislation.

“It just felt like this bill was kind of rushed through,” said union president Jay Schroeder. “I’ve contacted multiple people on the Board of Aldermen and expressed our concerns over the bill.”

In regards to the Circuit Attorney’s Office now having the ability to establish an investigative unit for police conduct, Schroeder responded with this: “You can’t be the criminal investigator and the internal investigator on a shooting.”

St. Louis Alderman and Public Safety Committee Chair Joe Vaccaro said the legislation couldn’t move forward without including the city’s prosecutor because the circuit attorney has the power to file charges for illegal police activity.

“A certain aspect of the public doesn’t trust the police. This should take care of that,” Vaccaro said.

The bill was introduced to the board on June 10. Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard spearheaded the bill.

Vaccaro told News 4 he constantly checked in with the bill’s sponsors to see if the city police organization wanted to provide input during public BOA meetings, but no one from ESOP or the union attended.

“In every case, the answer was ‘no’ or ‘yes’, they called me back, but they never followed back up,’” Vaccaro added.

“Right now we’re losing officers in droves,” said Ethical Society of Police President Donny Walters, who’s also a member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. “The ones that were causing these issues are no longer here, but we’re still feeling the after-effects. I didn’t get any type of correspondence until Tuesday of this week. We’re all for transparency, but at the same time, we would like to be included in these talks.”

The Board of Aldermen expects Mayor Tishaura Jones to sign off on the legislation. Any changes will have to come in future legislation.