We don’t need a Civilian Review Board. The time has come and gone for that. We need radical change. And by radical, I mean empowering voters to change policing in St. Louis City and, maybe by example, the nation.
I propose that we democratically elect a body to run the St. Louis City Peace Department, formerly known as the Police Department.
The St. Louis City Peace Commission shall have seven Commissioners elected by voters from Peace Commission Districts. Each District shall be equal to four current wards. After 2020 redistricting, when we drop to 14 Wards, each Commission District shall be equal to two wards.
The Commission shall be the head of the St. Louis City Peace Department. Commissioners shall set overall policy and goals for the Department and hire a Chief Peace Officer to manage the daily operations of the Department; the training facility to be known as the Peace Officers Academy; implement the Commission’s policies, and achieve the Commission’s goals.
Peace Commissioners shall be a full-time salaried positions and no other employment or business undertaking shall be conducted while serving on the Commission. Qualifications shall include a minimum age; a minimum number of years as registered voter in the City of St. Louis; and no income taxes, personal property taxes, or fees owed to the Federal, State, or St. Louis City governments on property in the candidate’s name or in the name of any business that the candidate has ownership.
Candidates shall disclose their family relationships with employees of the St. Louis City Peace Department within the fourth degree. Commissioners shall make an annual filing on same.
Commissioners shall be elected by partisan ballot in Primary and General Elections held at the same time as statewide elections. Terms would be four years without term limits. Odd numbered districts and even-numbered districts would be elected in different years. Vacancies shall be filled by the St. Louis Mayor to serve out the term. A Commissioner may face a recall election upon signatures from 15% of the registered voters of the Peace Commission District. In the event of a successful recall vote, a special election shall be held to fill the vacancy.
Commissioners shall elect a Chairman of the Peace Commission from among their members.
The City’s Earning’s Tax shall be earmarked for the Peace Department and related expenditures by the Peace Commission, such as crime prevention programs. Each year, the Chief Peace Officer shall submit to the Commission a budget for the Peace Department and the Commission shall adopt or amend it after public hearings.
The Peace Commission shall be empowered to send bond and tax issues to the voters at the same time as statewide elections.
Any decision by the St. Louis City Peace Department’s Internal Affairs Office may be appealed to the Commission.
All shootings by peace officers in the employ of the St. Louis City Peace Department resulting in loss of human life shall be investigated by the Commission.
And we shall also remove the paternalistic prohibition on our public employees, including peace officers, which excludes them from full use of their First Amendment rights and limits their participation in the democratic process. Preventing politics on the job does not require censorship of public employees when they are not on the job.
Now, I’m aware that this would take some action by the Missouri General Assembly and there are numerous parties ensuring it never stands a chance in Jefferson City, such as Rex Sinquefield and St. Louis Police Officers Association.
So, if we want real change, we’re going to have to do something more constructive than protest. We have to bypass the Legislature and beat Sinquefield at his own game. We have to collect petition signatures across Missouri for a well written initiative ballot issue to create the St. Louis City Peace Commission. We have to find every person who agrees the system has to change, make sure they are registered to vote, and get them to the polls.
It has to be a disciplined, thoughtful, grassroots campaign for a specific goal. If not the goal of a Peace Commission to run the Peace Department, something else.
Or you can go right on protesting and patting yourselves on the backs for shutting something down.