Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Police Discipline Central Issue as Slay Tries to Oust Civil Service Commissioner

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Police Discipline Central Issue as Slay Tries to Oust Civil Service Commissioner

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * After several attempts at asking nicely, Mayor Francis Slay is about to force John Clark to resign from the Civil Service Commission a move Clark believes is based on his outspoken criticism of police disciplinary matters.

Clark isn't going quietly.

Slay sent a letter to Clark 10 days ago notifying him that he will be forced to resign from the commission following a remark he made during a meeting in May. Slay accuses Clark of saying, "I will not vote in favor of anything that supports the police department." It is a sentiment that shows Clark cannot be trusted as an objective and unbiased commissioner, the letter states.

During the commission's monthly meeting this week, Clark loudly voiced his belief that the police department is intentionally keeping disciplinary matters away from the commission by issuing suspensions of less than 15 days. Under a provision known as Rule 19, only longer suspensions go to the commission on appeal.

Clark suggested that the provision is a way for police to keep their dirty laundry away from civilian scrutiny, and maintain a "good old boys" culture. He said Slay is after him because his remarks are being portrayed as anti-police, and the mayor cannot afford politically to polarize the police union.

On Tuesday, Clark prompted a preliminary vote to drop the threshold of commission involvement to a 10-day suspension.

"Our objective was to make this transition to local control as smooth as possible, and cutting the threshold to 10 days may give them the impetus to start sending more appeals over here," Clark said.

Clark's motion to change the rule passed, but it must be voted upon again at the commission's October meeting.

A public hearing on his removal is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 25 in room 714 of the Carnahan Courthouse downtown.

Should the proposed change even make it to the commission's agenda, the police union is prepared for a fight, said its business manager, Jeff Roorda.

"It would be a patently illegal breach of contract," Roorda said. …

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