"This is a compromise, but a workable one," Mayor Slay said. "Some will say this goes too far. Some will say it doesn't go far enough. But, our citizens want us to work out our differences and address the issues that divide us. That's what we did."
If the Board of Aldermen approves, the Mayor would appoint seven, fair-minded City residents to serve on a Civilian Oversight Board. The appointments would then have to be confirmed by the full Board of Aldermen.
"I have full trust in our citizens to provide oversight of their own police department," Mayor Slay said. "Civilian oversight can assure the public that investigations into legitimate and unfounded complaints are both handled fairly, increasing confidence in the outcome. All law-abiding citizens have a right to know that they will be treated with respect and dignity by their police department. They are our customers. Every good police officer has a right to know that they will be treated fairly while doing their job keeping us safe. "
The new Civilian Oversight Board would receive complaints about police actions and have the ability to independently review evidence and witness statements from investigations by police Internal Affairs. After reviewing the evidence, it would draw its own conclusions, and report its findings to the Public Safety Director and the Chief of Police. The board could also evaluate police department policies and make recommendations to the Chief of Police about how policies could be improved.
"This is one of many steps our City is taking to improve trust between all law-abiding citizens and our police department," Mayor Slay said. "Civilian oversight will be an added layer of independence and objectivity to assure our citizens that legitimate complaints are taken seriously and will create more confidence that the results of internal police investigations are credible, whatever the result. There are many benefits to better trust between police and all citizens. Citizens working closely together with police can make a neighborhood much safer."
Alderman Terry Kennedy, chairman of the aldermanic Black Caucus and a former chairman of the aldermanic Public Safety committee, has been the leading supporter of civilian oversight of police complaints. He helped craft the legislation with the concurrence of the Mayor's Office and St. Louis Public Safety Director Rich Gray. Alderman Kennedy will introduce the legislation on Friday. Typically, it takes several weeks for a bill to pass and get signed into law. A public hearing is part of the legislative process.
In the past few months, the Slay Administration has dismissed tens of thousands of arrest warrants for minor traffic offenses, entered into an agreement with African-American police officers to find, recruit and hire more African-American police officers, created a program to build diversity among construction trades, collaborated with St. Louis County to seek federal Promise Zone designation, ended the practice of automatically rejecting job applicants for previous felony convictions, and, with the Governor, dramatically expanded a summer jobs program for at-risk youth.
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