The changes that would result from Prop A are rooted in the history of two state statutes: the Racial
Profiling Bill, which allows for the creation of Civilian Review Boards, and the Sunshine Law, which
describes which government records are open for public scrutiny.
Under the current Sunshine Law, disciplinary records are closed to the public. Investigatory records
(investigations into accusations of a crime) are open to the public. But what if a record is both
disciplinary and investigatory? The Missouri Supreme Court tackled this issue in Guyer v. Kirkwood.
When a police officer is accused of a crime under color of law (on duty) there is an investigation. That
investigation may result in discipline (suspension, reprimand etc) but it may also result in a criminal
indictment. It is both disciplinary and investigatory. The Missouri Supreme Court held that such
disciplinary records, because they are also investigatory, should be open to the public. Prop A would
change that. It states that ALL disciplinary records will be closed.
Some supporters of Prop A attempt to justify keeping those records closed. They believe those records
should be closed until an officer is actually convicted, rather than simply accused, of a crime. Here is the
counter argument. The accusation that a police officer has committed a crime under color of law is quite
serious. Such a violation is egregious, because the officer is using the powers invested in him/her as a
public trust to violate that trust. The issue is made more complex by the fact that the police are
investigating one of their own in such a circumstance. The public deserves to know that the investigation
was thorough and unbiased. And we have reason to believe that such is not necessarily the case. In the
one Sunshine lawsuit brought against police using Guyer v. Kirkwood as its basis, we have gained access
to at least part of the investigatory record. We learned that police do not turn over their entire
investigation of police to prosecutors, as a matter of policy. In the case in question in that lawsuit, the
prosecutor did not end up with enough factual evidence to bring an indictment. This was largely due to
the police policy of not making all records available to her. So, you can see that setting the bar at police
convictions would allow for bias and potential cover-up to permeate the system.
Furthermore, there are serious questions regarding democratic process in how this provision of Prop A
came to be. Jeff Roorda, the Business Manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, was a State
Representative for many years. He tried repeatedly to get the law changed so that records would be
closed until an officer is convicted of a crime. He failed. Unable to achieve his goal through the
democratic, legislative process, he found himself in a position to slip this into Prop A. He was one of the
few people in secret negotiations with Rex Sinquefield’s organization and the mayor’s office. Though he
now denies it, one of our members personally heard him admit at a neighborhood association meeting
that he put this language into Prop A since HE thinks it is a good idea.
Many questions have also been raised about Prop A’s effect on Civilian Review. This issue hinges on the
same language in Prop A (“all disciplinary records shall be closed…”), but the Sunshine Law and Civilian
Review are actually separate issues. In order to function effectively, a Civilian Review Board would need
to see all disciplinary records, not just those open to the public. It would be looking at accusations of
misconduct that are not accusations of a crime (e.g. “the officer was rude and violated internal police
policy”) and therefore not governed by Guyer v. Kirkwood. The Civilian Review Board has statutory
authority to be part of the disciplinary process (not to make disciplinary decisions, but to have input)
and therefore to have access to records. Of course, it would also be subject to sanctions were it to make
those records available to the public. Prop A changes the Civilian Review statute. First, by giving
“exclusive authority” over discipline to the civil service commission, it prohibits the Civilian Review
Board from having the input previously allowed. Second, by closing all records to those outside the civil
service commission, it makes those records unavailable to the Civilian Review Board. Some have argued
that the Prop A language allows the civil service commission to set up a review board that would have
access to records. This review board would be subject to the civil service commission, a board appointed
by the mayor and therefore not the independent effective voice that Civilian Review proponents have
Finally, these changes, to both Sunshine Law and Civilian Review, would be exemptions to the state
statutes that would apply to St. Louis alone. The rest of the state would still operate under Guyer v.
Kirkwood. The rest of the state would operate under existing statutes that allow for the creation of
effective Civilian Review. St. Louis would once again be given “special status” just like what happened
151 years ago when citizen control of police was taken from us.