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St. Louis County crime commission to reconvene after 3-year pause

Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive , left, and Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell wait to take the Oath of Office
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Three years after its first meeting, the St. Louis County crime commission, which includes County Executive Sam Page, left, and prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell, right, shown at their recent swearing-in, will restart.

More than three years after its first meeting, St. Louis County’s crime commission is getting back to work.

“I think any time you have a complex policy question, and crime and public safety is, it's important to get together all the stakeholders and make sure they're communicating well and all the complicated issues are out on the table,” Page said Wednesday in announcing the restart. “With more of us comfortable meeting in public, I’m pleased to announce the crime commission will again hold meetings, and our next meeting will be Feb. 23.”

A 1976 law created the commission with a stated purpose of coordinating “all law enforcement and criminal justice activities in St. Louis County, such as those of the police, criminal courts, juvenile court and correction systems to prevent fragmentation of police, judicial and correction agencies.”

Page first convened the group in October 2019, shortly after a 3-year-old and a 13-year-old were killed hours apart.

But the group met just four times before the pandemic hit. And while other commissions shifted to virtual settings, the crime commission paused its work, despite Page calling crime reduction and criminal justice reform a top priority.

“We knew that the individual components of reform were taking place,” Page said. “So those issues weren’t left unattended, the coordination of those was difficult in the middle of that emergency.”

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, a member of the commission by law, said he regularly talked to others on the commission throughout the pandemic despite the pause on official meetings. But he said ad hoc communications don’t replace regularly scheduled meetings.

“I think these are conversations and stakeholders that need to be at the table, and if we have another venue to do that, I think that it’s a good thing,” Bell said.

In addition to Page and Bell, the other members of the commission are:

  • Council Chairwoman Shalonda Webb, D-Black Jack.
  • Scott Anders, director of the Department of Justice Services.
  • Police Chief Kenneth Gregory.
  • Mary Ott, presiding judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit.
  • Jennings Mayor Yolanda Austin, as the local municipal elected official.
  • Erin Kelley, CEO of Addiction is Real, as a citizen member.
  • A second citizen member who has not yet been selected.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.