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Should County Sheriff's Department Change to a Police Department?

St. Charles County approved a bill to ask voters whether the county Sheriff's Department should switch to a Police Department with an appointed police chief.

St. Charles County could have both an elected sheriff and an appointed chief of police in the future. 

The voted Monday to put the issue on the November ballot and let voters decide whether to establish a county police department which would be responsible for law enforcement duties in the county. 

Under the proposal, the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department would remain in charge of court services, prisoner transport, process serving. 

Council members John White, Terry Hollander, Joe Cronin and Nancy voted in favor of putting the matter before the voters. Council members Joe Brazil and Jerry Daugherty voted against the bill. County Executive Steve Ehlmann said he would sign the bill putting it before voters. 

"When there's an opportunity for the public to vote on an issue, I think you folks have the right to vote on this," White said to the audience Monday night. 

Sheriff Tom Neer said his main purpose in suggesting the change is to ensure a qualified person is running law enforcement in St. Charles County. The appointed police chief would have to have 15 years of law enforcement experience, six years of management experience and a college degree. 

To run for sheriff, a candidate must be a registered voter who has lived in the county for at least two years, at least 21 and free of felony convictions.  

Former St. Peters Police Chief Ron Neubauer said right now a popular person could go through the police academy and be elected, although he or she had little to no law enforcement experience. 

"It's something I honestly believe will give you a person with experience," he said. "Law enforcement today is technical, it's not like it was 20 years ago."

Neer said the cost to change the logos on the department cars, the stationery, uniforms and other would be about $100,000 and would come from asset recovery funds. Funding for the new police chief's salary would come from getting rid of one captain's position after one retires in 2014. 

Opponents questioned the true cost to convert to a police department. AC Dienoff, a candidate for State Representative, asked the council how they could vote on the issue without knowing the true cost to make the change.

"In my opinion, this is a power grab and we as citizens will not stand for it," he said. 

In the St. Louis area, St. Louis County is the only other county law enforcement agency that has a police department. There are about 32 urban counties with police departments rather than sheriff's departments, according to St. Louis Police Chief Tim Fitch. 

Councilman Joe Brazil said the people in district are opposed to not being able to elect a sheriff.

"I don't think people in St. Charles County are too stupid to make the right choice for sheriff," Brazil said. 

Councilman Jerry Daugherty also opposed the bill. He said the information was not presented in a timely fashion. 

Dino McDonnell August 30, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I find it interesting to see in one of the pictures with the caption “people who opposed the proposed change to a police department” I see St. Charles city Mayor Sally Faith and city ward 8 council men Mike Klinghammer. I wonder if this is some political campaign stop for Mike because he is running for county council this November.
Kalen Ponche August 30, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Dino- I'm sorry if my cutline was misleading. Some of the people in the audience held signs up that opposed the bill that puts the Police Department issue on the ballot. Many also applauded when people spoke out against the bill during public comments. Obviously, not everyone pictured shares that opinion.
Marvin Stehr September 01, 2012 at 12:25 AM
This is an issue about the sheriff's dept., the last bastion of defense of the citizens' against an ever encroaching federal and state governments, being accountable to the people via an elected sheriff. Proponents of bigger government with ever increasing power and correspondingly less freedom of the citizens, want a police department with an appointed police chief that will have no accountability to the people. The citizens and voters need to wake up to this continued attacks on their constitutional liberties. County councilman Wynn may have been speaking on the smoking ban, but his words apply equally to both the appointed police dept. and the smoking ban. He said this constitutes "tyranny" against the people.
David Guest September 01, 2012 at 02:39 AM
We elect and pay our county council to represent us, not to throw every controversial thing back to us for a vote. When it comes to campaigns for or against this issue you can bet the union money will be behind the appointed police option. How will the private citizen beat that?
Tommy Newcomb September 01, 2012 at 03:49 AM
This is very simple, the proposal is to reverse the long standing tradition of electing a powerful position. The position would lose accountability and could easily fall into good ole boy corruption practices with no need for public approval as the appointments are made by, no one know because it isn't specified anywhere. The 100,000 dollar estimate is ridiculous as that won't purchase a single vehicle and the county has spent as much as 80,000 on a park swing. Here's the prblem summary. 1 people lose ablilty to elect-choose. 2 people will pay more, possibly millions. 3 this is being rushed through with no effort whatsoever to detail the costs or procedures to be used.

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