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St. Louis board votes to create police oversight panel

St. Louis governing board to create police oversight panel; cannot discipline or subpoena

St. Louis board votes to create police oversight panel

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis will create a civilian oversight board to review complaints against police, lawmakers decided Monday, though it will have limited powers.

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 seven-person St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board will make recommendations but cannot discipline officers. 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 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 U.S. cities, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Police.

Some lawmakers said it wasn't enough, especially because the oversight board will lack subpoena power. But Alderman Antonio French, one of several bill sponsors, said that while it isn't perfect, it's a start.

"This hopefully will be one step toward re-establishing trust of police in the community," French said.

John Chasnoff of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression called the bill "a major step forward," but said time will tell if it leads to better relations.

Mayor Francis Slay will sign the bill into law on May 5, and said the measure "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 St. Louis Police Officers Association did not want such a board to be created. President Joe Steiger said the association does not oppose civilian oversight, but that the measure is flawed and ultimately will lead to a court review.

Updated : 2021-09-27 00:56 GMT+08:00