A St. Louis, Mo., police union official says officers would quit or do only the bare minimum of patrol if the city creates a proposed civilian oversight board, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
On Thursday, Jeff Roorda, a police union official, issued the stern warning to elected city officials who are poised to create a seven-member civilian board to investigate police misconduct allegations. And in an unusual step, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has even added his name to the measure as a sign of support.
“They’d answer their calls when they got them, but as far as interrupting criminal behavior on their own, why in the world would they do that when their employers aren’t even supporting them?” Roorda said.
“They would be incredibly reluctant to do their jobs,” he said, “and St. Louis would be a much more dangerous place than it is now. Nobody wants to be the next Darren Wilson.”
Wilson is the former Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was Black and unarmed, over the summer. The shooting sparked ongoing protests against police violence in the Black community.
Either way, the union has enlisted the assistance of Lou Hamilton, a seasoned lobbyist with knowledge of City Hall, to help fight or change the current bill.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
Alderman Terry Kennedy, who heads the city’s public safety committee, is a champion of the bill. He said he hasn’t set a date for a committee vote, which would have to take place before it moves to the full Board of Aldermen. Kennedy says he expects that to happen next month.
Kennedy disputed Roorda’s claims.
“The bill does not restrict officers from doing their jobs,” Kennedy said Thursday. “It enhances their ability to interface with the community because it gives a third party in residents the ability to look at complaints.”
The controversy comes nearly a week after a brawl broke out at a hearing about establishing the board. Roorda, who wore an “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelet, was accused of shoving a woman as he made his way to a podium to speak on the issue.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
“As I tried to make my way up to the podium, several protesters blocked my path,” he said. “The woman started stomping my feet and kicking my shins. I pushed back. The crowd just surged at me. I was just trying to stay on my feet.”
Civil rights leaders say Roorda’s behavior is emblematic of the flagrant disregard police show toward citizens.
“The existence of tension, and especially Jeff Roorda’s outrageous behavior, shows all the more clearly the need for civilian oversight,” said Jamala Rogers, the chair of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression. “Watching Roorda’s actions and those of some members of the St. Louis Police Officers Association only gave more reasons why citizens are distrustful of the police.”
Ferguson Voters To Elect City Council
In other news, Ferguson voters will get a chance this spring to elect a city council that mirrors the community, according to the Huffington Post. Brown’s shooting revealed the deep racial schism of the community and its lopsided leadership.
While nearly 70 percent of Ferguson residents are Black, five of the six members of the city council, as well as the mayor, are White.
David Conway, a councilman who decided not to seek re-election, said candidates are walking in to a tough spot. He told the news outlet that he had decided before Brown’s shooting death that he would not run again because it was too much of a time commitment. Conway, a Father of six, said it was difficult to balance his legislative work with his children’s extracurricular activities.
“It’s going to be hard to gain the trust back with the people,” Conway said. He recommended that the new members “engage in the community as much as you possibly can.”