Stenger drops countywide police standards

Focus now is on voluntary standards, Stenger says

By Gloria Lloyd

County Executive Steve Stenger recently announced that he is dropping the court case defending his proposed countywide police standards that was filed by Sunset Hills and other cities with municipal police departments.

After the County Council approved the standards in December 2015, Sunset Hills and 15 other cities banded together to challenge the standards in court. St. Louis County Circuit Judge Robert Cohen ruled last May that the standards were “invalid and unenforceable,” and the ruling recently was upheld by the Eastern Division of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Sunset Hills City Attorney Robert E. Jones made the oral arguments at both the county and appellate court against the standards, and County Counselor Peter Krane argued to the appellate court in favor of them.

“I think that the arguments are very strong,” Jones told the Call about the case. “There simply is not legislative authority for this particular ordinance.”

In a statement, Stenger said, “My ad-ministration remains committed to ensuring consistent, quality law enforcement throughout St. Louis County,” citing Proposition P, a proposed half-cent countywide sales tax on the April 4 ballot that would raise an estimated $80 million a year for public safety in the county and its cities.

Instead of appealing the decision, Stenger is discussing with the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis and other municipal leaders how to move forward with voluntary standards that could accomplish the same objectives of ensuring consistent police service to any resident in the county.

“We’re going to see if there’s a set of standards we can agree on and move forward in a cooperative fashion,” Stenger told the Call. “I think they’re willing to have some standards that we can agree on, and I’m happy to participate in those discussions.

“And we’re all going to be working together for April to put the ballot measure before the voters and hopefully improve policing throughout our community.”