St. Louis Board of Aldermen give Civilian Oversight Board subpoena power on last day of 2017-2018 session

In their final meeting of the 2017-2018 session, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave a highly anticipated bill that grants subpoena power to the St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board final approval.

The board passed Board Bill 233 by a vote of 23-2, with Alderman Joesph Vacarro, 23rd Ward, and Aderman Tom Oldenburg, 16th Ward, voting no.

The measure, introduced by Alderwoman Pam Boyd, 27th Ward, will empower the COB to issue subpoenas to compel the appearance of witnesses, produce documents, recordings and other evidence which the COB determines in its reasonable judgment are relevant and necessary to its thorough Inspection and Review of Complaints of misconduct by members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which may be subject to COB independent investigation.

The oversight board, a seven-member group of appointed city residents, has been reviewing complaints of police misconduct since May 2016. The board’s Public Safety Committee voted to unanimously pass Board Bill 233 for subpoena power on Feb. 28.

Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, 1st Ward, called the bill a step in the right direction but said she could not fully support it. She had been a ‘no’ vote the last time the bill was read but changed her vote to present citing concerns that the COB would not be an independent body if the mayor makes the appointments. Tyus added that she’d like to see the majority of the appointees be independent.

“There is still work for this to be an independent body,” Tyus said. “We do need to have the mayor not appoint all the people. If you give subpoena to all the mayor’s final appointees, you still haven’t got there

St. Louis Mayor Krewson has said she supports the measure, as does the public safety director and St. Louis Metro Police Chief John Hayden. The St. Louis Police Officers Association, however, opposes it.

The board perfected the bill in March by a vote of 18-3, with Alderman Joseph Vollmer, 10th Ward, Vacarro and Oldenburg voting no.

The Board of Aldermen annually passes hundreds of bills into law. This past session, there were 271 bills introduced. The bills ranged in topics from street closures to multi-million dollar projects and public improvements to progressive changes.

Of the 271 bills, the Board of Aldermen passed several pieces of notable legislation including an ordinance that establishes a bike share program in the City of St. Louis. It also passed a resolution committing the City to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

The Board of Aldermen also welcomed three new alderwomen this past session. Alderwoman Heather Navarro, 28th ward, Alderwoman Lisa Middlebrook, 2nd Ward and Alderwoman Annie Rice, 8th Ward were all elected following the 2017 Mayoral election, which left vacancies at the board.

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