New St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch wants to reinstate nearly $5 million in funding for the police department to hire more officers.
The proposal comes a month after the county council voted to cut $35 million from the 2019 budget, including the money for the new officers.
“The police chief submitted a budget, that's the budget that was sent to the county council, and the county council decided to cut it by $4.8 million,” Fitch said. “That’s what this would cover, it would be to restore those amount of funds.”
Fitch said the proposal will cover the 50 police department positions that were cut in the budget. County council members justified the cuts by noting the unlikelihood those 50 department positions would be filled in 2019. The 50 positions would go toward more two-officer patrol cars that St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar requested.
“Most of the patrol cars in St. Louis County are one officer,” Fitch said. “This would be to add a second officer in those areas where [Belmar] felt like he needed a second officer.”
Representatives for County Executive Steve Stenger declined to comment on the proposal. Stenger opposed the cuts in December and said the police-department reduction could jeopardize the public and the police.
“It increases officer safety, and, in our eyes, that’s number one,” said Matt Crecelius, business manager of the St. Louis County Police Association. “A very close second, or one and a half, is it increases the safety of citizens in St. Louis County.”
Council Chairman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, argued in December the $35 million cuts were necessary to prevent county reserves from getting too low. Page declined to comment Tuesday on Fitch’s proposal until he reads the legislation.
Fitch said the proposal has been given to the county counselor to write legislation for the council to consider.
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