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Judge Edwards aims to make departments more transparent and accountable

Alex Heuer
St. Louis Public Radio
Judge Jimmie Edwards talks about issues he would like to address as the city’s new public safety director";

Addressing police aggression and unequal policing are among Judge Jimmie Edwards’ top issues to address as the new public safety director for the city of St. Louis.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Don Marsh talked with Edwards, a former St. Louis circuit court judge embarking on a new role that oversees the police and fire departments.

Edwards will be sworn in office on Monday, and will run the city’s largest department – managing 3,500 employees and a $340 million budget.

Edwards described his reaction when Mayor Lyda Krewson asked him to take on the new role.

“I thought very carefully and very deeply about how much I love our city. And because I love our city, I’m willing to take the challenge,” Edwards said.

He said while the St. Louis police department is “great” overall, there are some issues to address.

“I certainly think that our city has some issues. There are trust gaps between police and citizens. There are some other issues we have to address in corrections,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he will address concerns of police aggression and unequal policing in St. Louis. He hopes to improve transparency by law enforcement departments.

“Every bone deep in my heart is about the city of St. Louis,” he said. “And it breaks my heart when there is inequitable treatment … we have to fix that.”

Edwards said he supports Proposition P – a ballot measure that would boost St. Louis' sales tax by a half cent to fund increased public safety efforts.

As public safety director, Edwards would have the opportunity to suggest policy change and expectations. The director will also select the city’s new police chief.

“I hope to be very vigilant in terms of trying to find somebody decent,” he said. After Dec. 15, he will narrow down the potential candidates and would like for them to be in place by the end of the year.

Continue work with youth programs

Edwards said he will still be committed to working with Innovative Concept Academy, an organization established in 2009 to keep children like Daje Shelton in school and outside of the courts.

Shelton was featured in the film “For Ahkeem.” The documentary, which premiered this year, aims to shed light on the school to prison pipeline.

“We have to educate our kids; we have to redirect them, and the only way that we’re able to do that is that we’re going to have to lean in on our educational programs,” Edwards said.

“A good revolution”

When asked about the post-Stockley verdict protests, Edwards said he supports citizens’ rights to protest to shed light on inequality.

“I’m one that likes a good revolution,” he said. “Protests don’t necessarily bother me; we all have a constitutional right to protest and to voice our opinions.”

But he does disagree with protesting turning into criminal activity, like property damage.

He said city officials are listening to the protesters’ voices. He invited protesters to his court room to improve trust and confidence between citizens and law enforcement.

“The sky is not falling in the city of St. Louis, but we’re going to fix the problems that we have,” he said.

Listen below to hear host Don Marsh's conversation with the city's new public safety director:


St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.