JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri House approved legislation Thursday to give St. Louis control over its police department and end state oversight that began during the Civil War-era.
Police officers favor state oversight, arguing that it insulates their agency from city politics, but St. Louis officials contend municipal government should have power over its police force like most cities.
The Republican-controlled House voted 123-34 to give the bill first-round approval, but it needs another vote before moving to the Senate. House Speaker Steven Tilley, who has supported the effort in past years, called the approval "historic" and "long overdue."
Control of the St. Louis Police Department has percolated for several years. Currently, the St. Louis mayor and a four other people appointed by the governor serve on a state board that oversees the department. The board was established in 1861.
St. Louis officials have argued that it would be more effective for the city to have authority over the police department, saying problems have surfaced when city leaders and members of the state board have not gotten along. City officials also have warned that if the state board remains in place, the city could seek nearly $100 million from state government for the police department's budget.
Police officers, however, contend the department could be less effective under local control. The St. Louis Police Officers' Association also is concerned that losing the state board could lead to reduced pensions and other benefits for officers.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)