A Missouri bill that's on the verge of becoming law would give St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay oversight of a police department that's now controlled by a state commission set up during the Civil War.

The St. Louis Metro PD and the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department are the only two large urban law enforcement agencies in the nation that answer to state police commissions. In St. Louis, a five-member commission with four gubernatorial appointees and Mayor Slay oversees the department's $173 million budget, the hiring and firing of the police chief, disciplinary actions against officers, and major policy changes.

"The city funds the department via city dollars, but has virtually no say about how it runs," Kara Bowlin, the mayor's press secretary, tells POLICE Magazine.

If the current version of HB71 becomes law, control of the police department and its approximately 1,370 sworn officers would be returned to local control on or after January 2012 if certain conditions are met. In that scenario, current Police Chief Dan Isom would report to the city's director of public safety rather than the state police commission. The public safety director is appointed by the mayor.

Missouri's officials took over the police department at the start of the Civil War because were worried cities would use police officers and resources to fight confederates in southern Missouri, Bowlin said.

By Paul Clinton

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