South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Special meeting called to discuss Green Park police services gets nowhere

Meeting was called to talk about city’s policing contract
Photo by Gloria Lloyd
Green Park Officer Jeremy Hake, right, with former Mayor Bob Reinagel at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Green Park McDonald’s in 2017.

A special meeting was called by the Green Park Board of Aldermen on Nov. 8 to discuss the city’s contract with the St. Louis County Police Department, though ultimately it led to little actual discussion on the city’s police services.

The meeting was called by Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton, who wanted to discuss reducing policing services in the city in an effort to save money. The city pays approximately $333,961 annually for services, which provides for two neighborhood policing officers, or NPOs, that have four, 30-minute contract patrol periods. There are also times when an officer is assigned to a “tour of duty” in the city. Total annual patrol hours for 2023 are 4,632.

There were some questions at the start of the meeting about whether or not the police contract should be discussed in an open session versus a closed session, though Mayor Tim Thuston questioned why “that was necessary.”

“I would like to discuss and make amendments and additions to our police contract,” Broughton said.

No Green Park officers were present at the meeting, and only one member of the public was in attendance.

Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton asked if it was a matter of safety discussing the contract in an open meeting if service coverage changes.

“My intention on that is … if there are any adjustments … if something shifts on our police protection, I wouldn’t want that publicized when they’re here, when they’re not here,” Hamilton said.

City Attorney Paul Rost said the contract itself was a public document, but the aldermen could go into a closed meeting at any point if necessary.

“This is something that should be discussed with the public here because we’re talking about public issues,” Thuston said.

However, the meeting never really got off the ground from then on, despite going on for approximately another 35 minutes. After the discussion about whether or not the board should go into a closed session, Thuston turned his attention to Broughton and questioned the urgency of the meeting in the first place.

“I know this is very important, but I’m not sure how urgent it is,” Thuston said. “That was my question, why we have to have a special meeting for something like this.”

Broughton replied that he would be fine then with discussing his proposal at the board’s scheduled meeting on Nov. 20, and motioned for that, but his motion did not get a second.

“What is it we’re here for?” Thuston questioned again.

“We’re here to discuss a reduction in our police services,” Broughton said in response. “I have suggestions that will save us about $200,000 … I think that’s significant.”

Broughton’s argument was to reduce NPO services from two to one, and to eliminate the supplemental contract patrols altogether, claiming that the service “is unverifiable.” According to Broughton, the reduction in services and elimination of supplemental patrols could save the city approximately $198,217 in 2024.

“My concern is that if you take off the supplemental contract patrols, you’re getting less coverage by our police,” Ward 2 Alderman Ron Slattery said. “What happens there then?”

Broughton countered that there wasn’t evidence that the city was getting services on these supplemental patrols.

City Administer James Mello said all supplemental contract patrol hours are logged.

“We don’t know whether they’re actually patrolling,” Broughton said.

Hamilton chimed in, adding that she was on the “opposite thought” of Broughton and would like to see increased supplemental patrols instead.

“My thought process was to go to the supplemental contract patrols on a 24-hour basis,” Hamilton said. “We could have 24-hour coverage with moving vehicles … that, to me, would be more beneficial than what we have now.”

Hamilton’s point was to instead move to strictly supplemental contract patrols rather than the NPOs, with officers patrolling the city every 30 minutes.

“I notice our police … they are called out constantly. It’s better for us to have a moving vehicle for half an hour, four times within that eight-hour period, constantly, than to have two officers that are actually called out more frequently than we know,” Hamilton said. “I get a call from someone at McAlister’s (at Lemay Ferry and Lindbergh Boulevard) … ‘Is the City of Green Park all the way down here at Lemay?’ I say no. Our (police) car was the second one to pull up, there was a total of four police cars. They all left and ours stayed there … I don’t understand that.”

Hamilton has expressed frustrations with the police services in the past, particularly when it comes to patrols during nights and weekends.

“I can’t unring that bell in my head. ‘Our officers don’t work nights, our officers don’t work weekends, they have families, that’s not what they’re gonna do,’” Hamilton said, quoting Officer Eric Tripp from a previous meeting. “Well, we have families too. They’re out and could get hurt on the weekend, or on a night … Don’t tell me that things aren’t happening at night in Green Park. I think an adjustment should be made, I don’t agree with all of (Broughton’s) stuff. … Just my opinion. I think it needs to be reorganized.”

After some further discussion, Slattery accused some of the other aldermen of not caring.

“You’re just throwing crime into our city if you’re gonna do this (reduce services). You don’t care about our city, you don’t care about the crime that’s gonna come into our city when you do this,” Slattery said. “You’re opening up (our citizens) to crime. … The presence of police is so important to a community. Who cares about the dollars … We got the dollars.”

At this point, Thuston cut in again, turning his attention back to Broughton.

“Are you asking for us to reduce our two officers to one officer?” Thuston said several times, talking over Broughton.

“We want (our citizens) to have more protection, not less. Just a few months ago we talked about adding a third officer, now you want to reduce to one? I don’t understand,” Thuston said.

The city has been discussing changing its policing services for more than two years. In 2021, there were discussions about adding a third patrol officer to the city’s contract for approximately $115,000. Thuston said at that time he didn’t know if the city would “get any advantage out of spending an extra $115,000.” The city has had two patrol officers since 2017.

“These officers work for St. Louis County, they don’t work for Green Park. When they get a call, they don’t say ‘I work for Green Park, I can’t handle that,’” Broughton said in a rebuttal. “I would like to know when they’re out of the city and how long and what they’re doing. That’s all stuff that people need to know to assess what kind of service you’re getting.”

Thuston claimed Broughton was minimizing the work of police officers, pointing out that the room the meeting was being held in was named after the late Officer Blake Snyder. Broughton worked for the St. Louis city police for several years.

The meeting adjourned with no action or consensus by the board.