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Columbia Missourian

VOTERS GUIDE: Proposition A

By Alexis Hitt
October 31, 2012 | 3:23 p.m. CDT

Missouri voters will be asked Nov. 6 whether to return control of the Police Board of Commissioners to the City of St. Louis instead of requiring that members be appointed by the governor.

Ballot language: Shall Missouri law be amended to allow any city not within a county (the City of St. Louis) the option of transferring certain obligations and control of the city’s police force from the Board of Police Commissioners currently appointed by the governor to the city and establishing a municipal police force; establish certain procedures and requirements for governing such a municipal police force including residency, rank, salary, benefits, insurance and pension; and prohibit retaliation against any employee of such municipal police force who reports conduct believed to be illegal to a superior, government agency or the press?

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State governmental entities estimated annual savings will eventually be up to $500,000. Local governmental entities estimated annual potential savings of $3.5 million; however, consolidation decisions with an unknown outcome may result in the savings being more or less than estimated.

What does this mean? Proposition A is a ballot measure that would restore local control to the City of St. Louis Police Department.

The St. Louis Police Department now is controlled by the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. Board members are St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and four governor-appointed St. Louis citizens: Richard Gray, Bettye Battle-Turner, Thomas Irwin and Erwin Switzer. If passed, the local control initiative would dissolve the board and put the Police Department under the mayor's control. 

Why should I care? The fiscal note attached to the ballot issue says Missouri would save an estimated $500,000 per year if it's approved. The savings would come from an estimated total annual savings of $1 million in costs related to defending and paying legal claims against the St. Louis Board of Commissioners. That, however, would be coupled with an increase of $500,000 per year in the cost of defending and paying claims against Kansas City's police board, said Spence Jackson, a spokesman for the Missouri State Auditor's Office. 

The city of St. Louis would save an estimated $3.5 million per year based on the "elimination of duplicative and unnecessary administration costs," Jackson said. Those savings, too, are reflected in the ballot measure's fiscal note. 

Is anyone opposed to this? A citizens group called Vote No on Prop A has formed. Its spokesman, Gary Wiegert, argues that the ballot measure is part of a backdoor collective bargaining deal between Slay and the St. Louis Police Officer's Association.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.