County should not appeal ruling on police standards

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

We believe a state appellate court made the correct decision earlier this month when it upheld a lower court’s ruling throwing out St. Louis County’s countywide police standards.

In a Jan. 10 majority opinion, the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals denied each and every one of the county’s legal arguments, siding with every point made by Sunset Hills and 15 other cities challenging the county’s police standards.

The municipalities banded together to challenge the standards, spearheaded by County Executive Steve Stenger, who believes they are needed to ensure equal access to quality law enforcement for county residents, no matter where they live.

In a statement issued after the ruling by the appellate court, Stenger said he is still weighing whether to appeal the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. We believe the county should not waste its time or taxpayers’ money in appealing the decision, given the overwhelming evidence against the legality of the police standards.

In May, St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Robert Cohen ruled that the countywide police standards were “invalid and unenforceable.”

After Stenger vowed that Cohen’s ruling would be appealed, we wrote in May: “Good luck with that.”

In his ruling, Cohen, who has since retired, concluded that adoption of the standards was not authorized by the state Constitution, state statutes or the county Charter.

Cohen’s ruling certainly shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Stenger or the County Council, as they were warned that the new standards would face a legal challenge well before they were approved.

Likewise, given the county’s shaky legal position, the appellate court decision shouldn’t be a surprise.

We believe a great deal of credit goes to Sunset Hills City Attorney Robert E. Jones, who represented the municipalities involved and eloquently argued the case before Cohen and the appellate court.

During his campaign to become county executive, Stenger vowed not to embroil the county in costly legal challenges, something he had criticized his predecessor, Charlie Dooley, for doing.

“… Legal challenges and losses by the county have been costly, and I believe they could have and should have been avoided,” Stenger said in July 2014.

We urge Stenger to honor his pledge and not appeal the appellate court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.