(The Center Square) – Nine years after a statewide vote approved the transfer of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from the state of Missouri to the City of St. Louis, State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, threatened to retake control.
“I am using this opportunity today to send a message to the City of St. Louis and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner,” Schroer said a news conference at the St. Louis Police Officers Association headquarters. “If the city does not get serious about arresting criminals and prosecuting those cases against them, I will push for the state to take back control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.”
During the Civil War, Missouri’s segregationist governor didn’t want St. Louis, a Unionist city, controlling its own police force. Today, the mayor has authority over the police chief and many areas of operations.
Schroer began the news conference by calling on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to call the legislature into a special session to focus on crime in St. Louis and Kansas City and to address the cities reducing funding for law enforcement. Last week, the state of Missouri and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners filed suit against Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, two administrators and nine city council members who approved removing $42.3 million from the city’s police budget but committing $45.3 million to the department for crime prevention, community engagement and outreach.
Gardner made national news during the last two years by establishing a list of police officers who cannot apply for search warrants, charge those they arrest or serve as witnesses in criminal cases. Gardner’s list contains approximately 75 officers – about 7% of the commissioned officers.
“I would like to see (Gardner) uphold the oath she took to obey and enforce the law,” Schroer said. “Here, we’ve got prosecutors that are saying they’re going to prosecute (certain) cases and not (others). We’ve got exclusion lists of law enforcement officers that are doing their job and putting their lives on the line. Now, they’re being villainized, so to speak, by that administration.”
Rep. Schroer criticized St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones for a proposal preliminarily approved in April to cut $4 million from the police budget and eliminate 98 vacant officer positions. The police department’s current budget is $171 million, about 15% of the city’s budget.
“While violent crime is increasing in our streets, it is absolutely insane to think about cutting funding for police,” Schroer said. “It’s even more ridiculous to consider defunding police when we have seen it fail time and time again.”
Schroer promoted the news conference on numerous media outlets on Tuesday. It prompted Mayor Jones to release a statement before Schroer stepped in front of cameras and microphones.
“St. Louis voters elected me to put the public back in public safety, and I’m willing to work with elected leaders who are ready to have hard conversations about the deep-rooted problems we face,” Jones said. “But the proposed special session would be government overreach and a waste of taxpayer dollars at a time when all of us can least afford it.”
Schroer said crime and murder rates in St. Louis and Kansas City are preventing businesses from locating or expanding in the state. However, Parson continually touts that Missouri is 10th in the nation for new site selection of businesses.
“When you talk to different members of the Department of Economic Development, they indicate crime is a major issue,” Schroer said. “Speaking to my constituents and other Missourians, people coming down for a baseball game, they’re looking for day games. They still want to support these teams that they love, but they’re afraid.”
Jones invited Schroer and other Republicans to tour an area of the city with significant social and economic problems to witness the city’s work and investment.
“Rep. Schroer is chasing clout while I’m chasing solutions,” Jones said. “I am extending an open invitation to Rep. Schroer and his colleagues to visit North St. Louis and see firsthand why my administration is investing directly into neighborhoods to address the root causes of crime.”