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Some States Move To Take Over Local Policing Functions

Missouri didn’t trust St. Louis with weapons. At the start of the Civil War, St. Louis was a Unionist stronghold. Missouri’s governor didn’t want the city controlling its own arsenal, so the state took over the local police force. St. Louis didn’t get back control of its own police until 2013, after a billionaire funded a ballot initiative forcing the issue. Last week, the Missouri House approved a bill that would again give the governor control of the St. Louis police, Governing reports. Legislators pointed to the city’s crime rates, claiming they are causing people and businesses to leave the city. “This experiment was 11 years in the making and frankly, the promises have been broken,” said state Rep. Justin Sparks, a Republican from suburban St. Louis. It is part of a larger trend of states not trusting localities when it comes to public safety. Florida, Georgia and Texas have all passed bills blocking localities from cutting police budgets by more than a few percent, in response to efforts to defund police departments or transfer some of their responsibilities elsewhere. Last week, the Georgia House passed a bill to create a state board with the authority to remove “rogue” prosecutors.

In Texas, where the state is preparing to take over the Houston school district, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has championed having the Texas Department of Public Safety take over the Austin Police Department. The Mississippi Senate has approved a bill that would give state police the authority to patrol throughout the city of Jackson, as well as giving state courts a say in determining the outcome of some local cases. “This is simply a response to Jackson residents who live in this proposed district who want more police,” said state Rep. Shanda Yates. I have constituents who will leave Jackson.” In an era of heavy preemption, states have told localities what they can or cannot do when it comes to crime, as well as a whole host of other issues. With crime such a hot issue, policymakers don’t want to leave anything to chance. Local officials don’t like the idea. There have been accusations not only of meddling but racism, with mostly white lawmakers voting to take control of public safety in largely or predominantly Black cities. “It reminds me of apartheid,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said about proposed state takeover bills.


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