CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Officers in all 57 St. Louis County police departments will be required to meet certain minimum standard requirements following action by the county council that is expected to prompt a court challenge amid concerns from leaders of predominantly black communities who feel targeted by the measure.
A coalition of municipalities, the St. Louis County Municipal League, an organization representing county police chiefs and others are expected to file papers seeking to block the legislation, which the council approved by a 4-2 vote Tuesday.
If upheld, the bill requires all departments in the county to meet baseline standards on use of force, pursuits and psychological testing, along with other criteria, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1OwXaNm ) reported.
Varying police standards became an issue after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson officer last year. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged, but the shooting spurred sometimes violent protests, as well as examinations of how police reacted to protesters and how blacks are treated by police.
Officials from several towns with largely black populations raised concerns about the requirements at Tuesday's meeting.
Vinita Park Mayor James McGee said it "basically" singles out "black, African-American officials. I'm just going to lay it out like it is. They want them to go away."
Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy called the legislation a "target on North County." And Faye Miller, a member of the Pagedale Board of Aldermen, likened the measure to an attempt by the county to install itself as a "slave master" controlling independent municipalities.
County Executive Steve Stenger, who sponsored the bill, strenuously disagreed.
"There is no targeting in the bill. The bill applies to everyone equally across the county. And in fact the bill has its main purpose that everyone in the county have equal access to quality law enforcement," Stenger said.
Out-of-compliance departments will have six months as of Dec. 1 to conform or face fines. If problems persist, county police could take over operations.
Many of the departments already hold themselves to the newly issued standards, and Stenger said the exact number of municipalities not in compliance isn't known. Municipal League Director Pat Kelly previously named six agencies he said are currently not up to par.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com