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Kennedy Tees Up Public-Safety Reforms As Aldermanic Career Nears An End

Alderman Terry Kennedy, left, has been dealing with the aftermath of a police shooting in his ward. The 18th Ward Democrat says the past couple of days showcases unconfortable truths about poverty and trust in St. Louis.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Terry Kennedy, at left here in a 2015 file photo, has two more public-safety reform measures on his agenda before he leaves office.

St. Louis Aldermen Terry Kennedy is using his last few months in office to push for more criminal-justice reforms in the city.

The 18th Ward Democrat — who is not running for re-election after being named clerk of the board — introduced two bills on Friday. One cleans up language and procedures in the 2015 ordinance that created the Civilian Oversight Board. The second calls on the city to draft regulations around law enforcement technology.

“It is designed to rearrange some of the sections so you can more easily find the provisions of the bill,” Kennedy said of the oversight board changes. “It also incorporates the subpoena power — that was a separate bill. It also requires the use of one application when someone has a complaint.”

Currently, he said, complaints filed directly with the police department’s Internal Affairs Division are not always shared with the oversight board.

Kennedy had worked with activists for years to get the oversight board running. Its members review complaints against police officers and can recommend changes to department policy. Though he expects people may disagree with some of the changes, he does not expect any hearing on them to be as chaotic as the first one was four years ago.

“It’s a different board today,” he said. “There are some other sensibilities that weren't here before. You also have the history of it’s working. People can see how it’s operating, where before it was just a vision.”

In addition to the oversight board changes, Kennedy also introduced legislation that authorizes the city to regulate technology like the gunfire-detection tool ShotSpotter and license-plate-reader cameras.

“You do not want to lose the security function and the safety function that they serve, but we must have policies that have had a public vetting process that protects the privacy rights of individuals,” he said.

Kennedy said there will be enough time to get both bills to the mayor before aldermen take a break to campaign. But he said even if there isn’t, it’s good to get the conversation started.

A spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association said the union is monitoring both bills and hopes to speak to Kennedy about them.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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