St. Louis mayor signs police oversight bill into law

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 4:28 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed into law Wednesday a measure establishing a civilian oversight board to review complaints against police.

The bill officially becomes law June 5. Slay, who took the unusual step of being a co-sponsor of the bill, is expected to nominate the seven members of the board by Aug. 5. They must be confirmed by the Board of Aldermen, who approved the plan last month.

The board will have the power to make recommendations, but will not have disciplinary authority. It will review evidence and witness statements from police internal affairs investigations, then report its findings to the public safety director and police chief.

The often contentious relationship between police and the black community in St. Louis and its suburbs came to the forefront after August's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white police officer in Ferguson. St. Louis police have fatally shot four people in the eight months since Brown was killed.

The St. Louis board will have oversight in the city only, not in Ferguson or any other suburb. Civilian police oversight boards exist in more than 100 cities, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Police.

Some social rights activists have called the measure a good first step, but the St. Louis Police Officers Association opposed formation of the board.

Slay said in a statement that the goal is "to establish a board that will enhance trust between police officers and the community, be fair to police and protect their rights, ensure that civilians have a role in our police department, and increase transparency,"

The issue was contentious that an aldermanic committee meeting in January was cut short when proponents and opponents began pushing and shoving while officers tried to maintain control. No arrests were made.