Some say but little action on the police alone in St | Jobs Recent

By Jeremy Kohler Propublica

ST. LOUIS – Three months after a public safety officer in St. Louis said that the city planned to investigate how off-duty police officers are used by private companies to patrol other areas. to find a way to pay.

The promise of a monthly police review came in September, after ProPublica revealed that the use of private police in St. Deputy Public Safety Director Heather Taylor, responding to ProPublica’s findings, said the city would hire someone to investigate the matter.

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said recently that she wants to make changes to the individual police system to eliminate conflict.

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“The well-heeled few, or those who pay extra taxes, shouldn’t get extra protection,” Jones said in a speech in St. Louis Public Radio this month. “We all pay taxes to make sure we get equal protection from our police department.”

The police department may be set for an overhaul with Jones’ appointment last week of its first chief from outside the agency in its 214-year history. Robert Tracy, chief in Wilmington, Delaware, will start Jan. 9.

Tracy could not be reached; Jones and Taylor did not respond to requests for comment. But the Public Safety Department’s program manager, Monte Chambers, says the city is planning to hire a consultant who is already preparing a plan for the city to investigate other police issues, including the operations of the city police.

The review would begin “once I get the money,” Chambers said in an email last week.

Chambers did not respond to additional questions seeking information about the investigation.

While the Police Department of St. As the publicly funded Metropolitan Louis Police Department struggles to put police officers in high-visibility areas across the city, ProPublica found that about 200 of them work part-time for the city’s largest private police company in some affluent and predominantly white neighborhoods.

Unlike other places where officials moonlight in security jobs, the St. Louis wears a city police uniform and can investigate crimes, stop pedestrians or vehicles and make arrests while working for private police companies.

The investigation revealed that city employees who work as private police officers were sometimes rewarded for working on other cases and that the main police company of St. district leaders.

Some of those officers sometimes work on small matters for their private clients while the police department struggles to deploy officers to other areas of the city that are struggling with violence.

Jones, who was elected in 2021, criticized the police in St. Louis saying he is “inefficient and ineffective” and, in a radio interview, lamented that individual police officers make the city unique and diverse. He talked about restructuring the department and shifting funding to programs that try to prevent crime, such as mental health and job training programs.

Megan Green, who in November was elected president of the city’s Board of Aldermen and is the city’s second-highest-ranking official, said independent police is an issue that the new chief “needs to take on quickly.” He also said the Board of Aldermen should investigate the source of the money for the private police force: local tax districts raise millions of dollars a year.

Many wealthy towns have created tax districts, most recently this summer on the south-side of Holly Hills. Zoning is permitted by state law, but periodically needs to be updated by property owners and the city. Green said the board could try to determine if “there are other tax districts that need to be destroyed.”

“I think that special tax districts create injustice in our city,” Green said. He said the city needs to “be more strategic about what tax districts are created. We don’t have a lot of planning around that as a city, which I think has made it even more inequitable.”

The Alderman’s Public Safety Committee had planned to discuss the undercover police at a meeting last week, but officials from the city’s Public Safety Department did not attend and the discussion was not held.

Getting rid of individual police officers can damage the city. Mr. Luke Reynolds, chairman of the taxing district in the city of Soulard that collects about $300,000 a year for private police, said that if the city’s police were prohibited from working for a private company that patrols their area, the community would look for other ways. increase public safety.

“I don’t know how that can happen,” he said.

“I have always said that I don’t think the system is right. But again, there’s a lot of injustice in the country, unfortunately,” said Reynolds, a bar owner in Soulard. “We’re going to try to make our community as safe as we can within the current system.”

Don Bellon, who owns a wrecking and salvage business and serves on the board that hires private police officers in the Grove entertainment district near the downtown corridor, said paying police officers was needed “because the city can’t afford it.”

But they said they are disappointed by the lack of accountability of independent officials. At a recent Grove court meeting, he asked what the government officials were doing on a night when many crimes were committed.

“There’s really no focus on them,” he said. “They are free. They just think about where to go.”

Charles “Rob” Betts, owner of The City’s Finest, did not respond to a request for comment. Betts called his company “essentially an extension of the police department” for neighborhoods that want to hire more police officers. And he avoided giving officers awards for working on other cases as not unlike a police officer being recognized for good police work at lunch.

Speaking about the police in St. such extremes. Representatives for the mayor did not respond to requests for comment.

In partnership with APM Reports this year, ProPublica also found St. Louis had staged his murders in a way that may have violated FBI crime rules and created false expectations about police effectiveness. The city quietly lowered its homicide rate for 2020 and 2021 by making more than a dozen people eligible homicides — deaths not included in the city’s homicide rate. Neither the department nor Jones’ representatives responded to requests for comment for this story.

ProPublica is a non-profit organization that investigates abuse of power. Subscribe to Dispatches, the nationally syndicated newsletter, to receive our stories in your inbox every week.

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