Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Reducers & Reformers and Black Political Power (Part 2 of 2)

(Part 1 of 2 is here.)

Mayor Control of the St. Louis Police Department: Whither "Citizen Review?"

This Sunday, September 1st, MAYOR takes control of SLPD. The state legislation and City referendum which put SLPD in the hands of MAYOR lacks any provision for a civilian review board of SLPD. This caused many of "local control's" earliest and most passionate advocates (predominantly North Side African-American political and community leaders) to oppose the new "Mayor Control" arrangement:
Protestors picketing outside the petition signing warned the plan would not make city police accountable to enough “civilian review” and “transparency.”

“The trust of the police department is at an all time low,” said Jamala Rogers with the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, “And they continue to coverup and continue to justify the wrongdoings of the police department.”

Rogers says her group has long sought the establishment of a civilian review board that would give appointed citizens a seat at the table when police conduct internal investigations of officer-involved shootings and allegations of police wrongdoing. She opposes the local control plan outlined in the petition drive, because it fails to set up a civilian review board.   
As MAYOR Francis Slay takes control of SLPD, here's what the St. Louis American's "Political Eye" sees [bolding by me]:
No civilian review yet

The community activists who pushed for local control for many decades, however, feel left off the crime-fighting team. Activists in the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) always saw civilian review as integral to local control. When Slay suddenly got behind local control in recent years, activists were leery; after all, this same mayor had vetoed civilian review when it was passed by the Board of Aldermen. Now, local control is here – and civilian review isn’t.

“It’s coming,” Dotson said. “The problem is getting it right so that the process is fair to the community and to police officers.” The activists, Dotson said, want “something like the Spanish Inquisition,” while the officers, he said, want a civilian review process that is “meaningless.” Dotson offered no solutions for how to bridge that yawning gap. He did note that a transitional board is collecting ideas for how to revamp the police department and that civilian review is on the table, but at a recent meeting John Chasnoff of CAPCR and Adolphus Pruitt of the NAACP were in the audience but did not offer their suggestions.

In fact, CAPCR and the NAACP were not withholding of their suggestions back when they actually had at least a semblance of a seat at the table. Now, it’s Mayor Slay and Jeff Rainford’s deal table – and the activists are faces in the crowd.
When Slay vetoed the Board of Aldermen's "civilian review" legislation back in 2006, he had a decent-enough reason:
"Under state law, the city of St. Louis and the Board of Aldermen cannot impose anything upon the police board, nor can it cause the police board, or even ask the police board to abdicate its responsibilities and its duties under state law over disciplinary matters, which is what their bill would have done," Slay said.
Why SLPOA is a stakeholder in the Reducers & Reformers

As of Sunday, September 1st, Francis Slay can no longer veto a "civilian review" bill and seek refuge in state law. As of Sunday, September 1st, the "City of St. Louis and the Board of Aldermen" now can "impose" all kinds of things on SLPD.

There are legitimate reasons for the St. Louis Police Officer's Association to be concerned about the shape and scope of any "civilian review board." It's just good politics for SLPOA to stake-out an opening position of, as Dotson characterizes it, a "meaningless" civilian review board. At the same time, NAACP and CAPCR have legitimate reasons to work for as powerful of a civilian review board as possible. It's just good politics for these groups to stake-out an opening "Spanish Inquisition" position.

It's just good politics on the part of SLPOA to do what it can to weaken the bargaining power of its legislator-adversaries on the Board of Aldermen. It will be through the Board of Aldermen that "civilian review" legislation, among other legislation that will effect SLPOA (now and in the future), will be hammered-out. So, it's just good politics on the part of SLPOA to position itself as a stakeholder in the Reducers & Reformers. Why? Because 11/28 = 39%, while 4/14 = 29%.

Why rousing "The Sleeping Dragon" in '15 is critical to the future of black municipal power

If demographic trends continue as they have through 2020, then Downtown and Midtown will be both more populated and more white (check out the dark reds Downtown and Midtown in the racial map), which means that Alderman French's prediction of 4 Central Corridor wards will be a reality. If demographic trends continue through 2020, then North Side will have both lost population and remained just as predominantly black. The prediction of just 4 North Side wards would be a reality. If demographic trends continue through 2020, then Southeast City will both remain roughly the same in population and be racially mixed. From my own personal albeit anecdotal observations, this looks as if it will be the case: 6 Wards on South Side, and the population just as black (if not more black) in the Southeast.

I've written before about Lewis Reed's setting-up shop on CHEROKEE as an effort to rouse "The Sleeping Dragon" of black voters in Southeast City. Not only is Reed's PotBoA shop on CHEROKEE, it's also in WARD 20. I've written about WARD 20, too. It's a majority-black ward surrounded by wards with significant black populations.

If a black political newcomer campaigns for and wins WARD 20 in '15 and then wins re-elect in '19 to indicate that she/he is a legitimate player, then 1 of the 6 South Side wards will be drawn in 2021 in order to be a black ward, expanded out of the "old" WARD 20. This would (albeit, not entirely) roll-back what the Reducers & Reformers have wrought: moving from a projected 4/14 black caucus to a 5/14 black caucus.

Perhaps just as importantly, it would signal that black power isn't just North Side. The Reducers & Reformers have trained their sights on eliminating black-held Citywide offices. If the Reducers & Reformers are successful, then there is the real possibility that the only black municipal politicians left will be four aldermen representing North Side and a long-time incumbent Comptroller who seems quietly satisfied with where she is. The four aldermen will probably need to redouble their energy on parochial neighborhood concerns, with little time for the kind of Citywide relationship-building necessary for higher office. A black alderman on South Side means that a larger black political organization toward truly Citywide coalitions can develop.

None of this can happen without rousing that "Sleeping Dragon." Lewis Reed for PotBoA '15 is on CHEROKEE now, but '15 can be about a whole lot more than just Lewis Reed ...

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