The “A Safer Missouri” Initiative
What does the the Safer Missouri Initiative (often referred to as “the Local Control Initiative”) do?
In 1861 during the Civil War, a state law was passed giving control of the St. Louis City police budget and operations to a state government commission largely made up of political appointees chosen by the governor. This old, outdated law is still in place, even though it clearly makes no sense.
The Safer Missouri Initiative is a ballot measure proposed for the November 2012 statewide ballot. Voter approval of this measure, often referred to as “the Local Control Initiative,” will finally restore local control over the St. Louis police department to the people and city government of St. Louis.
Getting the state out of the business of controlling the St. Louis police and restoring local control will increase the efficiency and accountability of the St. Louis police department, reduce state and local costs, and save state and local taxpayers millions of dollars.
Why does the Safer Missouri Initiative require a statewide vote?
Because the initiative changes a state law, it requires approval by voters statewide. Over the past several months, tens of thousands of Missourians have signed our petition to place the initiative on the state ballot.
Do the people of St. Louis support the initiative?
Yes. The initiative is strongly supported by the St. Louis Police Officers Association, the Mayor of St. Louis, and many local city officials and community leaders. And, in a local referendum in November 2010, the overwhelming majority of voters in St. Louis voted in favor of restoring local control of St. Louis police department.
Will this initiative save taxpayers money?
Yes. According to the official fiscal statement for the initiative prepared by the Missouri State Auditor, with input from St. Louis City officials, voter approval of the Safer Missouri Initiative will save state and local taxpayers an estimated $4 million per year.
Where will these savings come from?
A major source of the savings will come from reducing duplicative government services and increasing efficiency. For example, one legacy of the outdated Civil War-era law is that the St. Louis City government and the St, Louis police Department have separate purchasing departments, legal departments, and personnel departments. Voter approval of the ballot initiative will allow these functions to be combined, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In fact, City officials estimate that the greater efficiencies resulting from voter approval of the ballot initiative will save taxpayers about $3.5 million per year.
In addition, the State of Missouri is currently liable for up to $500,000 per year to pay for any lawsuits involving the St. Louis Police Department. After the Local Control initiative passes, the state will no longer have any liability for such costs and the costs for the state commission that currently governs the St. Louis police Department will also disappear. It should be noted that the initiative specifically guarantees that no police officers will be laid off during the transition to local control.
Does the initiative protect the rights of St. Louis police officers?
Yes. It specifically protects the pension benefits, collective bargaining rights and other rights of St. Louis police officers.
Does the measure protect against corruption and political meddling?
Yes. It also specifically prohibits retaliation against any police officer who reports conduct that may be illegal or unethical.
The state government also still controls the Kansas City police department under this outdated law. Why doesn’t the initiative also restore local control of the Kansas City police department?
The St. Louis police and city officials came forward to ask for local control to be restored in their city, so this initiative only deals with the old law that affects St. Louis. If local officials and police in Kansas City ask for a similar change, local control of the police department can be restored in Kansas City by the legislature or through a similar ballot initiative.
Would the Local Control initiative somehow prevent creation of a Civilian Review Board in St. Louis or block public access to records available to the public, as a few local critics of the St. Louis Police Department have claimed?
No. Those claims are completely false and have been rejected by the court that reviewed a challenge to the official ballot summary of the initiative, the Secretary of State (who wrote the summary), and the St. Louis City Counselor, the top legal expert for the City (read the City Counselor’s letter here).
The initiative simply restores local control of the St. Louis Police Department. Nothing in it deals with or prevents the creation of a Civilian Review Board. With respect to police records, the initiative affirms that the same public access to records that is normally allowed under state law and local policy in other cities and towns across the state will be allowed in St. Louis.