STL Bills Seek Stronger Police Controls

572ce1ff86960.imageBy Steppin’ Razor

St. Louis city lawmakers may achieve more powers for the Civilian Oversight Board and the Circuit Attorney’s Office to investigate grievances against police.

One proposed board bill is a long-sought measure that would give the Civilian Oversight Board (COB), which was created in 2015, subpoena power. Another bill would create an independent unit in Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office to investigate incidents involving police use of force. Both were introduced last Friday in the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

BB233, introduced by Alderwoman Pam Boyd (D-27th), has 14 co-sponsors including President Lewis Reed, and the support of Mayor Lyda Krewson, who has said that she would support stronger police oversight. BB234, introduced by Brandon Bosley (D-3rd) , has 11 co-sponsors, which includes the president.

Adding subpoena power to the COB would allow the board to order witnesses to appear in front of them, and demand documents and other materials like videos that would help their review of cases. Activists have argued that without the power to subpoena, the COB is restricted from conducting thorough investigations.

BB234 comes after an October 2017 statement by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announcing the launch of a unit to investigate police shootings. Many activists feel that police investigating use of force incidents themselves makes for biased findings and determinations.

Both bills follow recommendations from the 2015 Ferguson Commission Report, which was released after an investigation into the causes of the Ferguson uprising following the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, Jr. The report specifically calls for independent investigations of police shootings and a stronger civilian oversight body.

The bills are already experiencing some resistance from the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, which represents mostly White rank-and-file officers, that feels BB233 is illegal and a waste of money. Alderman Terry Kennedy (D-18th), who introduced the first civilian oversight bill in 2006 that was vetoed by then-mayor Francis Slay, says that the attorney for the aldermen disagrees with the STLPOA claim.

BB233 is getting high level support. Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards has voiced support for the bill and it is expected to pass in a full board vote. Sgt. Heather Taylor of the Ethical Society of Police, the Black police union, says that her organization supports both bills, saying that police have proven that they can’t investigate cases of their own misconduct with fairness.

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