St. Louis police urge lawmakers to keep control at the capital - KMOV.com

St. Louis police urge lawmakers to keep control at the capital

St. Louis police officers are at the capital asking state representatives and senators to keep control of the police department in Jefferson City.

It's a long-standing debate getting more attention as a bills moving through the legislature to give control back to the city gain momentum.  St. Louis is one of the only cities in the nation that does not have control of its own police department.  The current system dates back to the Civil War era, in which the department is run by a five-member panel.  Four are chosen by the governor for the $1,000-a-year spot.  The fifth seat is always held by the mayor.

And the 140 people who RSVP to go to Jefferson City says that's O.K.  Members and retirees of the St. Louis Police Officers Association don't want the 150-year-old rule to change.

"I think what it means is that you're going to have a more professional police department.  You won't have a political police department where you have alderman and other city officials trying to influence in police investigations," Joe Steiger, Vice President of the SLPOA, says.

Also on board the buses today are civilians who support the status quo.

"Everyone on board is 100% in opposition of these bills," Steiger says.

Officers fear city control will give the mayor control over their pensions.  But Mayor Francis Slay testified in front of lawmakers just last week that he would leave the pension system in tact with the state.

Mayor Slay told lawmakers, "I'd like to fix the police pension fund without crippling the department or unduly burdening our residents and businesses."  He went on to say, "Let me be clear... It will not change the current pension system.  Passing this bill will leave the police pension system under state control."

The decision remains with lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Governor Jay Nixon must appoint two replacement members to the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners after Vince Bommarito resigned amidst controversy, and Julius Hunter's term expired.

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