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Civilian oversight board for St. Louis police moves one small step closer to operating

Jamala Rogers (bottom left) and John Chasnoff (bottom right) after the civilian oversight board they have championed for 30 years received initial approval on April 15, 2015
File photo | Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

The process of getting the new St. Louis police civilian oversight board up and running has taken another small step forward.

The clerk of the Board of Aldermen officially sent the names of people who wish to serve on the board to Mayor Francis Slay. He will nominate individuals from that list to fill the seven seats on the board, which was created to oversee internal affairs investigations of civilian complaints against St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers. The board may also conduct its own internal investigations if it believes the Internal Affairs Division falls short, and can recommend changes to the police department's policies.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Slay said 30 people submitted official applications to the mayor's office. Twenty-one people submitted a different application to the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression. It's unclear how many overlap, and anyone who wants to serve on the board has to submit that official application. The document has faced criticism for asking about such things as social media accounts and criminal charges that did not result in convictions.

Coalition co-chair John Chasnoff said Slay is committed to getting a cross-section of the community on the oversight board. 

"But I also think that his application will tend to skew things in a certain direction, a safer direction," Chasnoff said. He said teachers, for example, were hesitant about applying because their schools tell them no keep their Facebook or Twitter information private, and the applications that ask about it could become public.

The city's application did not dissuade Lawrence Johnson from applying. The former president and current board member of the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association said he wanted to be part of something that could heal the city.

"My sense is that the role of COB, the civilian oversight board, is to bring our city together around our issues that have been plaguing us most recently here in the city of St. Louis but nationally for a long, long time," Johnson said.

He said we went into the process expecting the city to eventually ask for or gather information like social media accounts, and said he understood the need for vigilance.

Slay has to send his nominees to the Board of Aldermen by Aug. 5. Confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin in November.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.