Criminal Justice Reform and Public Safety
“It is not enough to simply be ‘tough’ on crime. We must be ‘smart’ on crime. We cannot arrest our way out of our crime problem.”
Far too many St. Louisans are affected by violence. The city must reject the false choice between being “tough” on crime and addressing the root causes of violence. St. Louis suffers from neighborhood disinvestment, poor mental health services, low officer morale, and strained community relations with law enforcement. My plan focuses resources on disrupting the small groups responsible for the large percentage of violent crimes while also diverting those with mental health problems and substance abuse problems out of our jails and into treatment centers. I will ensure police officers are treated like professionals by their city, are paid well, and are held accountable when they fail to meet the city’s standards.
“Smart” on Crime
The city has gun crimes, but it doesn’t have its own gun laws. The majority of gun laws are made at the state level, and local initiatives are subsequently found to be unconstitutional and cannot be upheld. For any gun laws to be created that could help St. Louis, the mayor of the city must have good relationships with Jefferson City legislators on both sides of the aisle. Due to my years at the State Legislature, I have formed those relationships and will leverage them in order to make sure urban areas, especially St. Louis, are taken into account when gun laws are considered.
While St. Louis may not be able to create its own laws around guns, there is plenty the city can do. As mayor, I will use the national model of Focused Deterrence, which involves unifying the police, social service providers, prosecutors, faith organizations, and the community to combat violent crime. This model has been successful in places like Kansas City and Philadelphia, which uses a method called group violence intervention. This intervention uses targeted communication of the aforementioned groups working together with gang members to actively promote an anti-violence message in the community. Another method, called individual gun violence intervention, targets individual offenders to ensure they receive an anti-gun, non-violent message, including education around gun laws and punishment. Focused deterrence has been found to be highly effective in programs like Project Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago. The city can learn a lot from these programs, and as mayor I plan to bring ideas like these to fruition here.
Social Workers and Mental Health Training in the Police Department
As mayor, I will make sure we are punishing people for bad behavior instead of for being sick. 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. Some examples the city could emulate include:
- LA Police Department Model
- Miami Police Department Model
- White House Data Driven Initiative on Incarceration
The city currently spends $254 million a year repeatedly arresting the same people, trying them, and incarcerating them. If the city can reduce the number of people cycling through the system, it will save a lot of that money. And, not only will this reduction save the city money, it will make the city a more humane, more sustainable place to live. Read my argument here about why the city should shut down the Workhouse. Decarceration efforts also need to include making sure people who have served their time are able to find jobs. This means more employers need to ban the box. You never know, it might be the smartest decision your company makes! It certainly helped my office save the city a lot of money.
Being a police officer is a difficult job. The city must increase officer salaries to be competitive with surrounding areas. I also want to improve professional development opportunities for officers through offering racial equity trainings, cultural competency trainings, and financial empowerment classes, which they already have access to through the Office of Financial Empowerment, which I created. I will strive to increase police officers’ connection to neighborhoods through housing assistance programs, especially through downpayment assistance, so that city officers are incentivized to live in the neighborhoods they serve. The city needs to ask the state to be a better partner to the police department. For example, the state should deploy Missouri Highway Patrol on interstates and other state controlled roads in the city to free up the city’s police for other matters.
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. To achieve this goal, I will work to:
- Limit Police Use of Force
- Provide meaningful opportunities for police-citizen relationships
- Redesign Police stations to provide social services and other community benefits
- Strengthen Civilian Oversight of the Police Department by supporting the addition of subpoena power to the current civilian oversight ordinance
- Provide Implicit Bias and Racial Profiling Training
- Reform Civil asset forfeiture
- 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
St. Louis is in the middle of a heroin epidemic. Cheap heroin has a stronghold on our community. 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: