UPDATED: Green Park Board of Aldermen OKs adding second county police officer

Green+Park+Officer+Jeremy+Hake%2C+right%2C+with+Mayor+Bob+Reinagel+at+the+ribbon-cutting+ceremony+of+the+new+McDonald%27s+earlier+this+month.+Photo+by+Gloria+Lloyd.

Green Park Officer Jeremy Hake, right, with Mayor Bob Reinagel at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new McDonald's earlier this month. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

The Green Park Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to adopt an ordinance amending its agreement with the St. Louis County Police Department to add a second neighborhood police officer for the city.
The city contracts with the county Police Department for police service, with one Green Park officer assigned during daytime hours to patrol the city.
With the board’s action, a second officer now will be assigned to patrol the city. The second officer could begin patrolling the city as soon as Dec. 1.
Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton had been opposed to hiring a second officer, but joined the rest of the board in voting to adopt the ordinance.

Look for complete coverage in the Nov. 30 print edition of the Call. Below is our story from the Nov. 23 print edition.

The Green Park Board of Aldermen is again considering adding a second neighborhood police officer, but at least one member remains adamantly opposed and even suggested the city end its contract with county police altogether.

Aldermen were set to discuss using the city’s pending money from the new Proposition P countywide half-cent sales tax for police and public safety to add a second officer Monday night — after the Call went to press.

The city contracts with the St. Louis County Police Department for police service, with one Green Park officer assigned during daytime hours to patrol the city. Officer Jeremy Hake currently serves in the position.

Mayor Bob Reinagel and Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston strongly support adding a second police officer, but Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton opposes the idea and even suggested to aldermen in advance of a special Nov. 8 work session that the city may want to join other south county municipalities in forming its own south county police cooperative.

Along with that idea, Broughton suggested the city could eliminate the position of Neighborhood Police Officer, or NPO, altogether, or contract with police departments other than the county.

In the first discussion of adding a second police officer at the Oct. 16 board meeting, Thuston’s motion to add a second officer failed because it did not receive a second.

At one of the earliest work sessions on the topic, Broughton suggested hiring more officers. But he changed his mind based on the city’s low crime statistics and data he compiled that he interprets to mean that the current city officer only spends 17 percent of a 24-hour day actually patrolling the city. The rest of the time he is off duty or writing reports, attending court or responding to calls outside the city, Broughton wrote to his fellow aldermen.

Broughton’s change of mind puzzles Reinagel, who sees hiring a second officer as a no-brainer.

“I don’t care about the crimes we have now, I want to prevent crimes,” he said. “Protecting the kids, going after the speeders. If we have the cop, he can make sure that we don’t have crimes in Green Park.”

To that end, Reinagel offered City Hall to Affton Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Melissa Webb as a substation, but she said she wanted her officers out on the streets and not in an office.

Broughton questions the “bang for the buck” that residents are getting for the police contract, which costs $242,000 a year for 24/7 patrol coverage, including roughly $90,000 for the NPO. Instead, he suggests that the city redirect its money from Prop P toward the existing police contract, minus the NPO. That would free up $150,000 to spend on grants to homeowners to fix up their houses or hire a full-time code enforcement officer, he added.

City Administrator/City Clerk James Mello, who has been on the job for a year, said he is taking no position on the new officer.

“It’s a community decision, and I’m a bureaucrat,” Mello said. “Jeremy does a great job. There’s certainly benefits to a neighborhood patrol officer, adding a second will have benefits as well. Whether or not it’s worth the money is a community decision. Having an extra person for the cost is where the discussion comes in.”

But in what was supposed to be a discussion on the issue at the work session, Thuston didn’t want to entertain Broughton’s suggestions or a proposal from Mello to come to an aldermanic consensus on whether he should place the police vote on the agenda for the Nov. 20 meeting and how the proposal should be presented.

As Mello broached the topic of Broughton’s memo, Thuston repeatedly said, “I don’t want to discuss it, I don’t want to be part of it.”

Asking Thuston and the aldermen if the city should hold a special meeting on the topic or simply discuss it at its regular board meeting, Broughton said he would like to have the police banned from attending so that residents could feel free to speak up with their thoughts and concerns about hiring another officer for their city.

Green Park residents should be free to “come up here and tell our tale” without fear of the police looking on, Broughton said.

The Green Park officer always attends Green Park meetings, and Webb and Sgt. Ray Absalon attended most of Green Park’s meetings where the topic of the second officer has been raised.

Mello told the Call that he could suggest at the meeting that an alderman did not want the police to be present during the discussion, but he could not force the officers to leave since city meetings are open to the public.

When Broughton suggested that Webb, Absalon and Hake not attend the meeting, Thuston asked, “Why? Why?”

“People are going to come up here and bad-rap the police,” Broughton said.

“Why do you know that? They’re not going to rap the police,” Thuston said. “That’s (expletive). There’s no reason for that, absolutely no reason for that. It should be an open meeting and not all of this (expletive) special session kind of stuff.

“We need an open meeting. I’d like to adjourn. This is (expletive).”

As Thuston continued, Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton tried to bring up the police vote that didn’t happen at the last meeting.

She didn’t understand why none of the aldermen wanted to talk about the subject and was confused why no one seconded Thuston’s motion for a second officer.

“I couldn’t understand why no one else was really saying anything, you were the only one that was vocal,” Hamilton said.

“I don’t want to discuss it,” Thuston interjected.

“You can leave any time you want,” Hamilton said. “You can leave any time you want, Tim … I don’t know why it didn’t get voted on in the last meeting.”

“Meeting after meeting after meeting …,” Thuston said.

Mello again tried to broach how he should place the vote for a second police officer on the upcoming agenda and whether a separate meeting was needed, noting that Broughton had suggested that police be banned from the meeting.

The meeting should be open, Thuston emphasized.

“I don’t want to discuss it,” Hamilton interjected.

“What the hell you discussing it for?” Thuston said. “I just want it to be an open meeting, what the hell’s that to understand? I want it to be an open meeting, and I want constituents to see what the hell people are voting for.”

“Cut me off, I’ll cut you off,” Hamilton said.

“Well, then cut it off,” Thuston said. “I adjourn.”