Our current system of policing is inefficient and ineffective. Every St. Louisan, including me, has been affected by violence. Too many of our conversations in person or online are filled with fear. We have not taken care of our city, and therefore, we are failing at our response to crime. St. Louis suffers from neighborhood disinvestment, poor mental health services, low officer morale, and strained community relations with law enforcement. The city must reject the false choice between being “tough” on crime and addressing the root causes of violence. We must address the small groups responsible for the large percentage of violent crimes. Officers are spending too much time responding to routine calls instead of addressing violent crime. We must invest in resources that will actually make us safer, such as treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders, programs that help lift people out of poverty, and meaningful criminal justice reforms.

Community First Public Safety Plan

The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd reopened a wound of mistrust between the Black community and the police that had never properly healed in the first place. Calls to defund the police have echoed throughout almost every major city in our country. A study using 60 years of data showed that an increase in funding for police did not reduce crime. We must expand our understanding of what actually works and invest in those things accordingly. Defunding the police does not mean abolishing the police. Instead, it means restructuring the department and reallocating the budget to programs and resources that actually prevent crime, like investments in substance abuse and mental health services, job training programs, and being a better partner with our education system.

Reducing violence will not happen overnight, and in order for it to be successful, everyone, and I mean everyone, has to be at the table.

As mayor, I will…

  • Start by declaring that gun violence is a public health crisis in our city and invest resources accordingly.

  • Use the national model of Focused Deterrence and St. Paul, MN’s model of a Community-First Approach to Public Safety, which involves unifying the police, social service providers, prosecutors, faith organizations, local businesses and others in the community to combat violent crime.

Triaging 9-1-1 Calls and Sending the Right Professional:

As mayor, I will make sure we are punishing people for bad behavior instead of for being sick, poor, or in need of other social services.  St. Louis’ North Patrol District conducted a pilot program, Cops and Clinicians, and discovered that nearly 50% of calls routed to their district could have been answered by a social worker or other licensed professional. Other communities that have done this have seen dramatic reductions in their jail population, realized significant cost savings, and have provided more humane treatment for those with mental health problems.

As mayor, I will,

  • Retrain our current dispatchers and hire additional dispatchers so when you call 9-1-1, the phone is answered and the right professional is deployed to the right call for help.

  • Require intensive anti-racism and de-escalation training for police cadets.

Decarceration

The city currently spends hundreds of millions of dollars repeatedly arresting the same people, trying them, and incarcerating them. If the city reduces the number of people cycling through the system, it will save a lot of money and make the city a more humane, more sustainable place to live.

The Workhouse must close. I wrote about why the city should shut down the Workhouse in 2016. The Board of Alderman voted unanimously in Summer 2020 to make this a reality yet it is still open.

As mayor, I will close the Workhouse. I will also be an advocate for ending cash bail so that you are not held pre-trial for being too poor.

Decarceration efforts also need to include making sure people who have served their time are able to find jobs by reducing barriers to re-entry and dismantling the school to prison pipeline.

Police Retention

The city must improve officer morale, offer mental health support, and increase professional development opportunities through training on racial equity, cultural competency, and financial empowerment, which they already have access to through the Office of Financial Empowerment, the office I established as Treasurer.

Although the legislature removed the requirement that officers live in the city until 2023, I will strive to increase police officers’ connection to neighborhoods through housing assistance programs, like down payment assistance, so that city officers are incentivized to live in their neighborhoods they serve.

Community-Police Relations

Reducing violence cannot come without the buy-in and trust of the community. The city must be intentional about reforming policing systems to heal the perceived and real divide between police and community. This lack of trust is one of the reasons why a majority of homicides are unsolved.

As mayor, I will hire a public safety director from outside the current system who has experience with crime in urban environments, someone who can work across all departments to make safety the number one priority. I will advocate for community voice in collective bargaining negotiations and the revamping of our performance evaluations to include aspects that measure community policing.

Substance Abuse

St. Louis is in the middle of a heroin epidemic, with Black men most at risk of death from an opioid overdose. It is not a problem that we can arrest our way out of. As mayor, I will work to expand access to substance abuse services and the decriminalization of some crimes committed as a result of drug seeking behavior.

This includes:

  • Support for the Gloucester Model, which creates safe places at police and fire stations for drug users to turn in their drugs without fear of arrest and be placed into treatment.

  • Reallocation of public safety dollars from the closing of the workhouse into substance abuse programming.

  • Open “sobering centers” to allow substance abusers to have a safe, supportive environment to become sober.

Improving Our EMS, Fire, and Police Departments

As Mayor, I will make sure that we prioritize diversity in our promotions and hirings across the fire department, police department, and within EMS.

As mayor, I will…

  • Direct the city to do a full review of hiring and promotion practices and make sure that they are equitable and reflect equal access to opportunity for Black and brown police, fire, and EMS employees.

  • Bring rank-and-file members to the table with department leadership to correct issues related to intradepartmental communication of priorities and mission.

  • Increase transparency and accessibility in the discipline processes within these departments.

  • Hold employees accountable for racist or homophobic posts on social media or in interpersonal group messages.

  • Implement mandatory mental health evaluations for officers.