ST. LOUIS — Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and the city’s Black police officers’ association got into a fight on social media this week after Jones said the group lied about its role in negotiating a plan to overhaul civilian oversight of the department.
The back-and-forth followed Jones’ signing of a bill creating a new civilian-run agency to investigate allegations of police misconduct, which have traditionally been handled by the police department’s internal affairs division.
The legislation is consistent with Jones’ campaign promise to rethink public safety in the city and hold police to a higher level of scrutiny when they’re accused of wrongdoing. But it has drawn the opposition of city police associations, who say they worry the agency will be weaponized against officers good and bad by people who are anti-police.
The Ethical Society of Police, which represents a few hundred minority police officers and endorsed Jones’ campaign for mayor last year, was one of the groups that was worried.
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The society complained that the bill gave the new agency too broad of a mandate and excluded current and former officers from key investigatory positions.
And after Jones signed the bill Wednesday, the association posted a statement to Facebook complaining that its members were never brought to the table to discuss the legislation.
That set Jones off.
“That’s not true and is a bold-faced LIE,” Jones wrote in reply. She said her administration started working on the bill nearly a year ago, and the association never brought it up in quarterly meetings with the mayor’s office. Moreover, the association had skipped all three public aldermanic hearings on the bill.
She also questioned why the group would oppose greater accountability for police given its history of calling out misconduct. “If you’re a good officer, you have nothing to worry about,” she wrote.
In its reply, the Ethical Society said it wasn’t looking for a public debate and called Jones’ response unprofessional. It said it was just trying to ensure thoughtful implementation of the bill.
“This should be welcome, not controversial,” the union wrote.
Jones was not feeling welcoming.
“You don’t want to publicly debate this but you made a public statement on a public platform and didn’t attend any of the public hearings to publicly express your thoughts and insight about the bill when it was being debated …in public,” she wrote.
On Friday, the association replied that the mayor was the one in the wrong, saying it didn’t know about the bill until a month before it passed and that it was never told about public hearings. It said Alderman Shameem Clark-Hubbard, who sponsored the bill, reached out three days before the final vote, but that was too late.
The union also expressed confusion about the mayor’s hostility to its statement, pointing out that its members endorsed her run for office last year.
When Jones replied, she said she still disagreed with the union’s assertion that it was excluded from discussion. She said it was welcome to come to the table now to help implement the new plan.
“Have a blessed day,” she wrote, “and thank you for your continued service to the city of St. Louis.”