- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A majority of elected officials in St. Louis are backing a bill to form a civilian oversight board for St. Louis police, but a union official warns it could deter officers from doing their jobs.

The seven-member board would look into allegations of police misconduct and report findings to the St. Louis police chief and public safety director. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/18CnWSA ) reports the bill appears set for passage next month, with the support of Mayor Francis Slay and a majority of the city’s aldermen.

But Jeff Roorda, a union official, said officers might quit or be more reluctant to take action on patrol if the board is created. He told the Post-Dispatch that “nobody wants to be the Darren Wilson,” referring to the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.

“They’d answer their calls when they got them, but as far as interrupting criminal behavior on their own, why in the world would they do that when their employers aren’t even supporting them?” Roorda said.

St. Louis has seen violent crime spike, and arrests have fallen 40 percent since the Ferguson police shooting.

A public safety committee meeting Wednesday on the oversight board proposal was cut short as a tense discussion led to pushing and shoving. No one was arrested or appeared seriously hurt, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Tensions rose an hour into the meeting as police officers testified against the bill. Roorda, who wore a wristband that read “I am Darren Wilson,” stood up to call for order, and the crowd became louder.

Alderman Terry Kennedy, the head of the committee, hasn’t set a date for a committee vote, but said he expects it to happen next month. If approved, the bill would go to the full Board of Aldermen.

“The bill does not restrict officers from doing their jobs,” Kennedy said Thursday. “It enhances their ability to interface with the community because it gives a third party in residents the ability to look at complaints.”

The current proposal would also allow the committee to review police internal affairs investigations. The unpaid members would be nominated by the mayor and approved by aldermen, and they couldn’t be elected officials or relatives of police department employees.

St. Louis is one of a few major cities that don’t have some form of a civilian oversight board, according to the Post-Dispatch. A similar proposal was vetoed by Slay in 2006 due to what he called “inflammatory anti-police” language.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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