St. Louis, MO- A St. Louis City Hall meeting discussing a proposed civilian board to oversee the city’s police department ended early Wednesday evening after a dispute between a police union representative and city alderman digressed to shoving and pushing among the attendees.
The city’s aldermen held the meeting to seek public feedback about a bill, sponsored by Alderman Terry Kennedy, that would establish a Civilian Oversight Board for the city’s police. The board, if established, would have authority to investigate accusations of police misconduct, study police policies and procedures, and offer recommendations to the department. A potential board member would be responsible for a specific area of the city, and be nominated by the mayor and approved by the aldermen. To be an eligible candidate, an individual must not be already holding public office or be related to police department employees. The Board was proposed in an effort to ease tension between police and citizens following the protests erupting after Ferguson.
The meeting went on for about an hour without incident; residents took turns discussing different sentiments about implementing a Civilian Oversight Board. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was when police officers spoke in opposition to establishing a board that the crowd became agitated. A Ustream video shows the dialogue that took place and the moments that led to the meeting becoming disorderly (graphic language):
As the noise from residents grew louder while a policeman was testifying, Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, shouted to Kennedy to keep the meeting in order. Kennedy shot back at Roorda “Excuse me, first of all, you do not tell me my function.”
Roorda, who is also a Democratic member of Missouri’s House of Representatives, appeared to attempt to exit as the attendees also began shouting, and the meeting became chaotic as shoving and pushing ensued. One woman in attendance, Cachet Currie, told St. Louis news station KMOV that Roorda shoved her as she was trying to leave the meeting.
“I was literally just trying to leave the meeting and I got caught in whatever Roorda and Kennedy had going on in their exchange,” Currie said. “Roorda just jumped out into the aisle, pushed me over, and tried to get to Kennedy. I’m like ‘wait a minute, don’t push me.’ Then he started going off on me, pushing me. Some man grabbed me by the hair, just started trying to throw punches at me. From there it just went wild.”
Roorda denied pushing Currie and said that others were grabbing at him. He referred to the meeting as a “sham” and said that “As I tried to exit the aisle I was in, the woman was standing in the way.”
“She began elbowing me and pushing, trying to keep me from getting out. As I tried to exit, she continued to do that. Two or three other anti-police radicals rushed over and things escalated from there,” Roorda said.
“We spent the night hearing from anti-police radicals,” Roorda said. “We hear from two police officers and he (Kennedy) lets the place go wild.”
Some of the attendees were reportedly angry that Roorda came to the meeting wearing an “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelet. “Why go up to the front and show the bracelet off?” said protester Rasheen Aldridge. “Why go up to the front and sit in front of the protesters where you know they are at, kneel there, and have this bracelet sit there and smile as if it’s okay. You’re being held to a higher standard as the business manager of the police officers’ association, so you need to be responsible for what you do. What he did was completely irresponsible, childish, and wrong.”
The meeting was adjourned early as a result of the commotion. A regularly scheduled Board Of Aldermen meeting is being held today.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the bill “appears headed for passage next month”, and Roorda said that if the board is established, the city’s officers will either quit or slow down their policing. “They’d answer their calls when they got them, but as far as interrupting criminal behavior on their own, why in the world would they do that when their employers aren’t even supporting them?” Roorda said.