As the protests have returned to Ferguson, policing again is under a microscope and one of the recommendations that surfaced during the past year was of regionalizing police forces.
When officers are trying to write enough tickets to get paid, as in Ferguson, Mo., and Brooklyn, Ill., poor people are often carrying the burden of that “tax” and they mistrust the cops that much more for preying on them. Broaden the tax base or improve efficiencies by centralizing and there’s less pressure to drum up revenue.
Regional police groups increase and improve training, which is a key to reducing police use of deadly force. Having a broader group of officers means more opportunities to hire a diverse police force that increases trust without losing all the experience.
East St. Louis, Washington Park, Alorton and Brooklyn are now aligned through the Metro East Police District Commission, which is extending its reach from procedure manuals and training to planning a new police station for them all to share. All four communities have had past problems with drugs, cash, guns or investigative files walking off or being compromised at their stations. Prisoner security has been a worry since 1990 when Walter DeBow was beaten in an East St. Louis cell, sued and was briefly awarded City Hall.
The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois at the end of May asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to support state funding for a single headquarters for the four communities’ police departments. The reason that an economic development agency is worrying about policing is that without a safe community, investment will not take root and bring jobs, which in turn cut crime.
Combining these police departments makes sense for a lot of reasons, but giving residents back their neighborhoods is the best reason we can imagine.