CLAYTON, Mo. – An emotionally charged crowd with several St. Louis County police officers speaking out Thursday night. Many said they were getting cut out of voter approved pay raises that as part of Proposition P.
“We’ve literally been robbed of memories from our loved ones because of our pay,” said county officer Derek Machens. “Not only have we lost a ton of money, we’ve lost damn good police officers—especially minority police officers—to outside agencies.”
St. Louis Council Chairman Sam Page called for the late afternoon special session where he raised concerns over the increased pay proposal and its potential impact on police pensions.
“I’m not against giving the police a raise,” Page said. “I think they need a big raise, I think this raise is great, but what I’m against is not funding the pensions appropriately enough to back up that raise and we are not doing that.”
But many officers said they were not convinced, that’s what the delay is, while pleading with council to move forward.
“The voices of the citizens of St. Louis County were heard this last April with the passage of Prop P, please don’t let them down and please don’t let us down,” said Machens during the public comment portion.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who is a proponent of the bill, said he couldn’t think of anything that would justify withholding the passage of the bill. He explained there was a formula the county always followed when it came to funding police pensions.
“That formula is so simple,” said Stenger. “It’s for every dollar that we spend for pay, we put forth 26 cents into our pension fund and that has funded our pension very well over decades.”
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that while he didn’t get the result he was hoping for Thursday night, he supports the process that could likely yield in favor of police raises.
“I think it is appropriate to have these kinds of conversations,” said Belmar. “I think we need to ask the hard questions, but I think at the same time we can’t do this in a manner to where all of a sudden it jeopardizes these officers and their families from their expectations.”
The bill is expected to return during the council’s regular meeting next week and if perfected then it will move for a final vote in the following week.