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Missouri GOP lawmakers call for special session to address defunding police, public safety


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    ST CHARLES COUNTY, Missouri (KMOV) — A busy night of shootings across St. Louis and a rising homicide rate are two reasons why State Rep. Nick Schroer plans to echo lawmakers on the west side of Missouri in a call for a special session in Jefferson City this summer to address public safety.

“Violent crime in these two cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, has skyrocketed and taking resources away from police is not the answer,” said Schroer.

Schroer says they were not able to address all the issues facing public safety during the regular session that came to a close last month. He says lawmakers are asking Governor Mike Parson to call for a special session to address how some cities are “defunding police.”

Right now, St. Louis City is in the process of approving the 2022 budget. It goes into effect July 1 and currently calls for $270.4 million for public safety, an increase compared to last year and representing 53% of the city’s spending. It’s why Democratic State Sen. Brian Williams says the focus needs to get away from catch phrases like defunding the police.

“We need to stop letting the rhetoric of national politics interrupt how we do things in Missouri and in St. Louis. We need to be focused on reimagining public safety, building the trust, protecting our police officers but also ensuring there’s trust and accountability in the community,” said Williams.

Williams was the sponsor of a bipartisan public safety bill that is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. The bill bans police chokeholds and removes a residency requirement for Kansas City police officers.

Last summer, the special session addressing public safety led to the removal of the residency requirement for St. Louis City police officers. It was meant to address the issue of hiring within the department, which has seen roughly 150 positions go unfilled for years. But those positions remain unfilled. Numbers provided by the City of St. Louis show more people applied to SLMPD prior to the lifting of the residency requirement. 463 people applied between September 2019 and March 2020, compared to 403 applicants in the same period from September 2020 to April 2021.

Its one of the reasons Mayor Tishaura Jones proposed eliminating 98 of those long vacant positions in the coming year’s budget, and instead, reallocating those funds to address other root issues of crime. The elimination of those positions is one issue Rep. Schroer has with the proposed budget as well as the impact it could have on hiring and retaining officers. Lawmakers near Kansas City have similar concerns with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ proposal. But the mayor of Kansas City says the following about the call for a special session.

“Our plan increases funding to the police department, while we also as a city, and with separate investments are addressing the root causes of crime, like poverty, lack of adequate mental health, and housing instability,” said the mayor in a statement. “For those legislators interested, I am inviting them to join me and neighborhood leaders on a walking tour of our neighborhoods most consistently impacted by violent crime. We all have to work together on solutions to this problem and we all know funding in one area alone will not solve all our problems.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Jones said they are not surprised by the latest attempt by Missouri representatives to seize local control from the people of St. Louis.

So what could lawmakers do during a special session? Rep. Schroer says there are multiple things to discuss, including giving taxpayers more say in how cities fund public safety and a re-examination of whether local control of police departments is the best plan. For decades the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was controlled by the state. Governor Mike Parson’s office says a decision on whether or not to call a special session has not been made at this time.

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