Working Together

Working towards better policing

St. Louis Area City/County Managers Association and Municipal League of Metro St. Louis vote to bring regional consistency to police departments

By Charlotte Beard

Community leaders and the law enforcement community in the St. Louis area are working together to improve policing across the region

At the Berkeley City Hall on Nov. 30, a monthly meeting with the St. Louis Area City/County Managers Association (SLACMA) was held where members of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, voted unanimously to approve a new law enforcement agreement to bring regional consistency to police departments. The agreement will ensure best practices for St. Louis County. There were approximately 100 meeting attendees.

Executive Director for the league, Pat Kelly, shared, “It speaks volumes that the membership approved [this agreement] unanimously. This is something that from the small cities to the big cities, the statement they want to make to the public is ‘we’re trying to re-achieve the standard.’”

Both Kelly and Chief Kevin Murphy, president of the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association (SLAPCA), shared the details of the process that brought them to the new requirement for police departments to begin certification before Jan. 1, 2019, with the goal of completion by Jan. 1, 2022.

Talks began in late 2016 about developing a set of standards. In January 2017 a subcommittee of the league members was formed consisting of police chiefs, Marty Corcoran – City Manager for Maplewood representing SLACMA and Kelly who represented the league’s administration. Murphy, who is chief in Clayton, operated as chair of the subcommittee. Also, named as part of this smaller group were agencies from North County: Bridgeton, North County Co-op, St. John’s and St. Louis County PD representatives.

“We broke into a subcommittee,” stated Murphy, “and had a series of meetings in January, July and August where we drafted up the agreement and then we brought the larger group back [into the discussion] in August to question how it was drafted, and provide feedback before we took it to a membership vote. The membership vote for St. Louis area police was held in October. The agreement was ratified by our membership in October. We then took it to the St. Louis Area City Managers Association and they ratified it at their November meeting.”

The adopted language for the agreement was prepared by SLAPCA and was laid out as follows: “Best practices required under this agreement include having written policies on: appropriate use of force; handling crises intervention team; bias-free policing; vehicle operation, accidents, and pursuits; investigation of officer-involved shooting incidents; in-custody deaths; and citizen complaint process and internal affairs. All officers must be Peace Officers Standards and Training certified and licensed, and detailed background checks will be conducted.”

Kelly stressed that accreditation is a three-year process and added, “Each municipality has to develop their policies and procedures using the guidelines of the accrediting organization.”

Murphy clarified that the Missouri Police Chiefs Association does the certification and the accreditation happens with CALEA [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies]. CALEA is considered the “gold standard” for public safety, and has some very specific program standards. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) is another source for certification. No agency can have assessors directly affiliated with the police agency seeking certification. Achieving certification is not the end of the agreement; Kelly shared that the police department is audited every three years thereafter.

Kelly also shared that only five percent the police departments across the United States are certified; 25 percent of St. Louis County alone falls into that national percentile.

“In a few years, St. Louis and St. Charles County could possibly be the only two counties in the country that have close to 100 percent accredited police departments,” he said

To help support this mission of certification, the motion was also made on Nov. 30 that it is now a qualification for membership into the league or SLAPCA. Adoption of the agreement is required within a specific timeline.

Chuck Caverly, president of the league stated, “By requiring our member municipalities to seek certification, we aim to encourage our region to build on the 25 percent of currently certified local police agencies and become a national leader in the number of certified police departments.”

Murphy stated that Clayton, which anticipates receiving its seventh award in 2018, has been accredited since 2000. They started the process in 1997. He also shared that St. Louis City and St. Louis County are accredited in the specific areas of policing, police academies and their dispatch center.

“There is an appeal process available to an agency,” stated Murphy. “If [an agency starts the process] and for some reason they cannot meet the deadline of Jan. 1, 2022, we will look at the reason why and [decide] how to proceed.”

Both Kelly and Murphy share in the quest to help bring consistency to the police practices across St. Louis County rather than lose any members of the league or SLAPCA.

Kelly stated in detailing the process, “I think it really says a lot to the residents of St. Louis County and St. Charles that our police departments are working together in trying to reach that high standard of accreditation to provide consistency and the best policing for the residents throughout the region.”

Murphy further confirmed the goal of this agreement.

“We’re trying to [ensure] through the best practices agreement that all citizens are going to receive a level of service that is a model of consistency and professionalism. We’ve been through a tough three-year stretch in law enforcement in this area. I think you can say it’s been tough across the country,” Murphy said. “We can’t continue to sustain demonstrations week in, week out, one month to the next. We’re trying to make sure there is a strong level of trust between law enforcement and the citizens we serve. We think by doing this ‘best practices’ it’s really going to enhance the sense of trust between law enforcement and our citizens.”

To read the Nov. 30 press release visit the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis’ website and look under News & Information/For the Media: www.stlmuni.org.

CUTLINE: Photo by Ray Rockwell Members of the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association are working with St. Louis Area City/County Managers Association (SLACMA) and the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, to implement a new law enforcement agreement to bring regional consistency to police departments.