Mo. House Approves State Takeover of St. Louis Police Department

March 29, 2024
The plan, which now heads to the Missouri Senate, would resurrect a previous arrangement that effectively puts the state government in charge of St. Louis city's police department.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO — A plan to end local control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department won final approval in the Missouri House on Thursday and now heads to the Senate, where its fate is unclear.

"It's probably not a universally supported position, even amongst our (Republican) caucus," said Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R- Columbia, talking to reporters Thursday.

"I don't know that state control of St. Louis police is gonna happen this year or not," he said. "We need to be talking about these issues to try to make sure St. Louis is doing well."

The plan would resurrect a previous arrangement that effectively puts state government in charge of St. Louis city's police department. Under the measure, a five-member board consisting of four appointees of the governor plus the city's mayor would manage the department.

SLMPD is currently run by a police chief selected by the mayor, the result of a change approved by voters and enacted over a decade ago, which ended a century-and-a-half of state oversight.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D- Independence, on Thursday told reporters that Chief Robert Tracy, who has been on the job just over year, should have more time in the role and more resources before any changes are made.

And the fact that recently appointed Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore, who replaced embattled Kim Gardner, is not facing an opponent this election cycle is a sign that there's some "good faith going on right now."

"I think the chief and the new prosecutor over there need plenty of time to try to turn it around, which is a tall task," Rizzo said.

Though most House Democrats opposed the state control measure, a few refused to take a stance, and a handful voted in favor of a return to the old arrangement.

One of those House Democrats was Rep. Steve Butz, of St. Louis, who supported a similar effort last year.

He said that the city's two police organizations, the Ethical Society of Police and St. Louis Police Officers Association, back the proposed change.

"They are hand-in-hand in coming here and asking that we return state control," Butz said. "I implore my fellow city reps. to at least consider that request from both the Black officers and the white officers."

But Butz called out lawmakers, like Rep. Brad Christ, who sponsor legislation aimed at St. Louis city when they don't live there.

"We find that to be offensive and absurd," he said.

Butz also said the while city faces grave challenges, there are many wonderful things about it. "We need that badmouthing about the city of St. Louis to stop," he said.


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