Police review board proposal still has election snag
Thursday, May 5, 2005 6:21 PM CDT

Jamala Rogers, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Oppression, told reporters on Friday that Mayor Slay should be responsive to citizens' wishes and back Ald. Terry Kennedy's civilian review board bill.

Mayor Slay opposed to electing members of citizen oversight group

By Alvin A. Reid Of the St. Louis American

After last year's exhaustive series of public hearings, Ald. Terry Kennedy presented a revised police civilian review board bill to the city's Board of Aldermen meeting last Friday.

Kennedy predicts that the proposal will now be subject to - yet more hearings.

The proposed bill has been moved to the Public Safety Committee, where it can be debated.

Mayor Francis Slay remains opposed to a proposal that includes having an election for any members of a civilian review board, which is the anchor of Kennedy's old and new proposals.

Jamala Rogers, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Oppression, said the group hoped Slay would yield to public pressure and back the new proposal during a press conference at City hall.

"There was a recent election that we hope reminds the mayor that he is here to serve the people," Rogers said.

She added, "We don't understand why people in elected positions have such a problem with elections."

While both Slay and Kennedy say the latest proposal is close to the police review board the mayor, Police Chief Joe Mokwa and the Board of Police Commissioners approved last year, another major difference is the review process.

In Kennedy's proposal, an independent board would have subpoena power. In addition, the board and the police department's Internal Affairs Division would do joint investigations of complaints against police. Both agencies could call witnesses and gain access to any relevant documents.

Under Kennedy's bill, if the independent civilian review board is dissatisfied with the joint investigation, it can conduct its own. Funds for this board would come from the city's general revenue, according to Kennedy.

In introducing the bill, Kennedy said that election of members and the independent board's right to issue subpoenas are "its most important points."

Should Kennedy be able to influence a majority of aldermen to back his bill, Slay would have to sign it into law.

But Slay is adamant, saying, "I can't envision a bill that I would approve that would include elected members."

Rogers said the recent conviction of a black police officer by federal authorities on corruption charges - after he was not tried by the Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce's office - and the jovial reaction by many police officers at the abolition of city residency rules "reflects an arrogance that needs to be addressed."

Rogers said that there is enough support to get the bill out of committee, "and hopefully we can win enough votes to have it passed by the entire (Board of Aldermen).

Kennedy said his proposal could become a role model for the country.

"Our hope is that people against it will see the logic. We definitely need to fairly address police response."