On Friday, the high-crime city of St. Louis’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment asked Budget Director Paul Payne to research eliminating 150 vacant police officer positions from the city’s budget to pour the money into social service programs.
The board includes Mayor Tishaura Jones, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green.
About 40 people made public comments during the two-hour meeting, including many who called for the elimination of the entire police budget.
One woman said to continue to fund the police department would be to continue to fund “state sanctioned murder.”
Several other people suggested the elimination of the department’s audio detection equipment known as the Shotspotter system, SWAT team and the Real Time Crime Center that tracks hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the city and other intelligence efforts.
Emilia Hinckley, a St. Louis resident, told the board St. Louis police officers are “inept and brutal failures,” who “routinely fail” at their job and are “one of the deadliest police departments in the country.”
“They will continue to murder residents with impunity,” she said.
Green read several other names of residents who submitted written comments.
“I do intend after hearing the comments to definitely move to recommend to the other members of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to look at substantial reductions when it comes to police positions that have gone vacant for several years,” Green said.
She also recommended increasing funding for the Affordable Housing Trust as well as more mental health workers.
“This is our time, this is the place and so I don’t want us to miss the moment to make clear that this is how we’re going to do it,” she said. “Reducing those police positions that have gone vacant for several years, that is something that can help inspire the increases I’m speaking of so we can move this community and neighborhoods throughout the city forward.”
She continued, “We understand the call from the community to look at what we intend to do and how we intend to repurpose what we’re calling public service.”
Jones replied, “Agreed, I look forward to working with you on those amendments.”
Reed didn’t comment, other than to call the meeting, “One of the most productive Community Engagement sessions we’ve had” since he joined the board.
Police Chief John Hayden has advocated the fulfillment of the vacant positions — supporting the removal of the residency requirement in the hopes of attracting more recruits.
Eliminating the vacant positions also eliminates the pool of money used to pay overtime to officers during the shortage.
These people are crazy and they have power. The audience doesn’t sound much better.