St. Louis has a lot of great history. We live with it all around us. One part of our history though, the loss of local control over our own police department, is an outdated arrangement whose time may finally be coming to an end. Change can be painful, and this change may bring some serious pain in terms of heavy financial cost.
For well over one hundred years, city taxpayers have been footing the bills of the St. Louis police department, without having control of the department. The police have resisted any changes to the system, a holdover dating back to when martial law was declared by the governor during Civil War times.
More and more city residents are crying foul over the long antiquated situation. Some call it taxation without representation. Elected officials in Jefferson City control the city's police department, while city voters have no vote in electing most of these officials.
The ongoing investigation into the practices of a private company hired by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to tow cars is rekindling interest in returning local control over the city police. The ongoing investigation reported in the Post Dispatch describes stories of vulnerable individuals being victimized by the towing company.
There may be hundreds of victims. Now, at the call of Governor Blunt, the State of Missouri is auditing the police department. $700,000 is owed to the city by the towing company, and through the ongoing investigations, involving the Missouri Auditor, the FBI, and the IRS, more wrongdoing may come to light.
As a city resident, it is my hope that the victims of this scandal are compensated at the state level. City taxpayers should not be called upon to foot the legal bills for an agency over which they have no control.
Local leaders, including Mayor Slay, have long called for local control over the SLMPD. Unfortunately, the issue has always died in the state legislature. With the current problems facing the police department, leaders in Jefferson City might be ready for a change.
We need to restore confidence in the St. Louis police department. Thanks to the Post Dispatch for investigating and reporting on this story. As a community, we need to move forward together to get to the bottom of this situation, and then make the necessary changes to improve public safety and protect the rights of all residents, visitors, businesses, and people working in the city of St. Louis.