If Kansas City doesn’t get local police control, why should this St. Louis suburb?

·2 min read
Facebook/O'Fallon Missouri Police Department

Missouri Republicans are big on local control — until they aren’t. Case in point: Two GOP lawmakers who don’t live in either Kansas City or St. Louis nevertheless filed legislation aimed at controlling the cities’ police departments. So, a St. Louis Democrat is turning the tables on his Republican colleagues by proposing state control of an affluent suburban police department in the district of one of the Republicans.

State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge filed a bill that would put O’Fallon, a suburb northwest of St. Louis, under state control. To be clear, Aldridge is no fan of the state-appointed police boards, like the one that controls Kansas City’s police department. But on Twitter this week, he wondered if state control would “work in smaller municipalities” better than the “disaster it was for St. Louis City and still is for Kansas City.”

The tit-for-tat started when state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville — a suburb northwest of Kansas City — filed a bill that would cap the Kansas City Police Department’s budget at 25% of the city’s general fund, a generous 5% increase to the department’s current operating capital. And then Nick Schroer, a Republican state representative from O’Fallon, proposed returning the St. Louis Police Department to state control. Neither, of course, lives in Kansas City or St. Louis.

To get back at Schroer, Aldridge filed Missouri House Bill House 2582, which would place the O’Fallon Police Department under state control, an outdated approach that has been a source of contention in Kansas City. The mayor is the only member of the five-member Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners who answers to the people. Kansas City residents don’t have much input in how the agency is run. And there is little accountability to the public.

The point here should not be lost on anyone. Policing is either a local issue or it’s not. We can’t afford to continue to understate the obvious double standards. The measure proposed by Aldridge likely won’t go anywhere in a GOP-dominated Missouri General Assembly. But it illustrates the hypocrisy coming from Republican lawmakers from both sides of the state.