Should the city police have a reality TV show?

From the St. Louis American

Read the full story here

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has signed a one-year contract with “The First 48” confirming its participation in a new reality TV show that will begin working with the department around the second week of January, according to the police department.

The contract was signed between a principal of Kirkstall Road Enterprises of New York (on August 16 of last year) and Police Commissioner D. Samuel Dotson (on September 9). Dotson signed for the City of St. Louis “by and through” the police department. Other city officials counter-signed with him: the comptroller and city counselor (both on September 28) and the registrar (on September 29). Mayor Francis G. Slay did not sign the contract, though the city counselor reports to him.

The contract commits the producer to supplying $2 million in certificates of insurance “per occurrence” but does not specify any payment that the city will receive from the show. The producer is granted sole ownership of the filmed work, as well as “sole discretion” to make any use of the police department’s “proprietary intellectual property” in connection with the series.

St. Louis will elect a new mayor on April 4, and the new mayor will be sworn in that month. Depending on which of the signatory dates is binding, when the new mayor takes office the city will be obligated to four or five more months of having a true crime reality TV show shot in St. Louis with the active participation of city police.

“If you are elected mayor,” we asked the most credible and electable candidates for mayor by email, “what do you do about a reality show devoted to the city police?”

Tishaura O. Jones answered first.

“A cable TV reality show is just a TV camera crew with airplane reservations out of town later in the week,” Jones wrote. “I’d tell the Public Safety director to give them no more access than the police department grants local TV stations. The example of shows like this in other cities should have been cautionary. It has an artificial construct, 48 hours of investigation, that can – and reportedly has – led to miscarriages of justice. It is to policing what ‘The Bachelor’ is to courtship.”

Antonio French answered next.

“It’s offensive. People have been demanding that Dotson and Slay address the rising violence. Instead, they announce plans to exploit the pain of our community for the entertainment of others. My comprehensive crime plan calls for more homicide detectives and more resources for the communities most affected by violence. That’s what we need, not a reality TV show,” French wrote.

“The other, much bigger, problem is that the police chief is making these kinds of decisions, not the mayor. Under Dotson, the police department is literally out of control. Despite gaining local control from the state a few years ago, the police department still operates largely outside of the rest of city government and without much oversight or accountability. The only way we’ll have real community policing or a truly holistic approach to reducing crime and violence is to have a mayor who runs this city effectively, coordinating all our departments with a single mission: improving the quality of life in every neighborhood.”

Lyda Krewson answered next.

“How will a family feel when they see their loved one’s murder investigation and crime scene become part of a reality show for entertainment purposes? I know that after my husband was murdered I would not have wanted my children televised for entertainment purposes,” Krewson wrote.

“While a show like this does humanize the hardworking detectives and officers involved, I think it potentially exploits victims. This is not a decision the chief should be able to make on his/her own. My decision would be no TV show.”

Lewis Reed did not respond.

Along with the mayor and comptroller, Reed has a vote on the Board of Estimate & Apportionment, which would have approved the contract with the show’s producers – had it involved any money. As the city is giving away access to its police department and its intellectual property, the contract did not come before E&A.

Tishaura vs. Roorda

Tishaura O. Jones missed our deadline last week in responding to the St. Louis Police Officers Association’s endorsement of Krewson for mayor, but her response is worth reporting. She made it personal to the police union’s business agent and spokesman, Jeff Roorda.

“I did not seek the organization’s endorsement. Jeff Roorda brags that he delivers the union’s important endorsements. I have no doubt he delivered this one. It is impossible to stand for change and to sit with Jeff Roorda,” Jones wrote.

“My first thought upon hearing that Krewson had accepted the endorsement was how uncomfortable Roorda’s attacks on Black Lives Matter and other groups pressing for systemic change would make her. My second thought was that it might not make her uncomfortable at all. That’s the kind of calculus that shapes elections in St. Louis. Our community needs a better relationship with the police department. And almost everything about their jobs would be better if they had a better relationship with the community.  No mayor who believes those things can – or should — accept Jeff Roorda’s endorsement.”

A thought here: Did the POA endorsement help or hurt Krewson? Many conservative whites were and are going to vote for her anyway, but the progressive-minded whites may think twice because of what Roorda et al. represent. You can easily surmise that it’s not a lot of votes, but with several serious candidates, a few votes may matter. Just a thought.

Roorda: not wholly ‘conservative’

Roorda read the EYE last week and sent some thoughts of his own.

“Don’t you think it is a journalistic lapse not to mention that both Antonio French and Lewis Reed pursued the SLPOA endorsement? It’s seems odd to allow Antonio to take pot shots at me and the union without at least mentioning that.”

Roorda also took exception to being branded a “conservative ideologue” in this space.

“To call me a conservative ideologue requires one to completely ignore the eight years I spent in the Legislature as one of the leading voices against Voter ID and Right To Work and one of the leading voices in support of Medicaid expansion, funding for inner-city schools, a moratorium on the death penalty and the interstate compact for the National Popular Vote, just to name a few,” Roorda wrote.

“I was also almost single-handedly responsible for Dred Scott being inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, where his bust is now prominently displayed. It’s not quite as simple as dubbing me a ‘conservative ideologue.’ If it was, that description wouldn’t bother me so much.”

Hazel Erby on the rise

How about those new St. Louis County Council leaders?

Councilman Sam Page (D-Creve Coeur) was selected as the new chair and Hazel Erby (D-University City) is the new vice chair. For the last two years, the council majority aligned with County Executive Steve Stenger has kept Erby – at that time the only black council member – in legislative Siberia. She was not even given a committee chair despite her seniority, so being selected vice chair was quite a comeback for her – and a sign that her constituents and the black folks in St. Louis County may be destined to finally have a proportionate and relevant voice in the council.

Given that Erby, despite being a stalwart Democrat, endorsed Stenger’s Republican opponent Rick Stream in 2014, hers was not the star Stenger hoped to see rise at the council in his mid-term.

Stream goes to election board

Speaking of Stenger’s erstwhile opponent, the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners hired Rick Stream as the new Republican director of elections. He takes the seat of Gary Fuhr, who retired last May following one of the county election board’s periodic election day snafus. Christian Tolbert, who had been serving as interim director, goes back to being deputy director.

That means Stream is not state budget director and will be available to run against Stenger in 2018. That is, if Stenger makes it out of his certain Democratic primary election alive.

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