By Jeremy Kohler St. Louis Post Dispatch Sep 18, 2019
Featured image: St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, left, chats with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Photo by Hillary Levin, [email protected]
CLAYTON — St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Tuesday he is forming a nine-member crime commission to coordinate the county’s police, courts and jails in an effort to reduce crime.
A county ordinance enacted in 1976 calls for the formation of such a commission — called the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council — consisting of the county executive, the chairman of the County Council, the county prosecuting attorney, the head of justice services, the police chief, the presiding judge, an elected municipal official and two county residents.
County officials said they did not have any record of such a body ever holding a meeting. A Post-Dispatch story in 1976 said the county’s board was set up to redistribute federal anti-crime funds. The last mention of the body in the newspaper’s archives was in 1979, when County Executive Gene McNary asked the County Council to consider reorganizing and shrinking the board. It did not appear the council followed through.
The St. Louis Board of Alderman voted 26-0 in July to form a council of the same name and similar makeup, with the task of improving cooperation and communication and reducing the chances of mistakes.
Under the county’s ordinance, the commission is responsible for coordinating all law enforcement and criminal justice activities in the county “to prevent fragmentation of police, judicial and correction agencies.” It is set up to help secure funding for programs and assist or monitor federally funded anti-crime projects. And it can take other related actions ordered by the county executive.
Page said he walked around the scene in Jennings where 3-year-old Rodney March fatally shot himself Friday and asked himself, “Why is this happening?”
“What I’m doing today is making sure the right people are in the conversation so we can look at public safety as a whole,” Page said. Exactly what a comprehensive plan might look like, he said, he didn’t know. But he said the county “cannot stand aside and hope it gets better.”
A day after asking the County Council to pass a law banning vendors from contacting county officials during the bid process for government contracts, Page announced more actions aimed at restoring faith in county government.
Page also said that on Wednesday he would sign a series of executive orders on ethics reform, including the creation of a code of ethics for county employees, establishing a zero-tolerance policy for failing to report corruption, implementing a policy “to always favor disclosure” of public records and meetings, and to improve public access to data on the county website.
In July, Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, said the council’s ethics committee would investigate how the county justice center spends research grants, saying he had “credible information” that some programs did not comply with federal auditing and accounting procedures.
But Trakas said Tuesday he was dropping the matter because the county administration had looked into the issue and found “technical glitches” but no wrongdoing.