The executive of St. Louis County proposed new rules for police on Wednesday in the 57 towns and cities in Missouri’s largest metropolitan area in the wake of complaints of racial profiling and unfair fines and fees.
The proposals come weeks after a federal report found that abusive policing had strained relations between minorities and the mostly white St. Louis County Police Department and made more than 100 recommendations for changes.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement he would present the bill to the county council on Tuesday and the new standards would go into effect within six months for police in dozens of municipalities.
The new rules would bring officer recruiting and training and use-of-force policies in line with basic standards. Such rules are already in place at the St. Louis County Police Department, county officials said.
The police killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed African-American, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in August 2014 triggered a national movement over policing and race. The fatal shooting by a white police officer was found to be justified.
The U.S. Department of Justice studied the St. Louis County Police Department and recommended it address minority under-representation, enhance training with a focus on fair and impartial policing and community engagement, reduce use of force and work to ensure racial profiling does not occur.
In addition, residents of two St. Louis suburbs have sued city governments claiming that officials have abused and exploited impoverished people through onerous traffic fines and court fees.
In a report on its investigation that found widespread abuses in Ferguson’s police and municipal courts practices, the Justice Department said many people interviewed described similar abuses in other municipalities in St. Louis County.
Stenger said the new rules would address many of those issues.
“To build trust between police and residents, this legislation will require that all departments establish use-of-force polices that they make available to the public,” Stenger said in a statement.
The new rules set standards for licensing and training police officers. The rules also establish policies on when officers may use force and bar them from stopping people based on race, ethnicity or other criteria.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago)
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