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Black groups ask rank-and-file police to help ‘repair the bridges’

WEST END – A collective of black groups is calling on the city’s rank-and-file police to reconcile differences with the community and to stop what the groups believe to be unfair and inequitable policing and prosecution.  

The groups, known collectively as the Community Justice Coalition, gathered Wednesday morning at St. Paul AME church,1260 Hamilton Ave. in the city’s West End neighborhood. 

It is the same group that rallied twice this summer at the seat of city government in support of embattled Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

Adolphus Pruitt II, the vocal president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP, part of the coalition, echoed the words of a rough-draft op-ed that The NorthSider obtained.  

“Fair and equitable policing and prosecution requires cooperation and cannot effectively exist in an environment full of division,” Pruitt expressed, adding, “We appeal to the rank-and-file members of our police department to work with us to repair the bridges torn down between community, policing and prosecution.”  

Pruitt said that north St. Louis residents supported the police department, calling the notion that blacks don’t support law enforcement a lie.   

He referenced the passing of Prop P in November 2017, “post Ferguson.” The ballot measure increased sales taxes by a half cent. The revenue was earmarked for compensation and enhanced law enforcement. It also included increases for the fire and public safety departments. 

As reported by Fox 2, that year, Ed Clark, then the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) president, thanked St. Louis voters for their support, at an election-day watch party at the union hall. 

“This is an important moment for my members and the St. Louis they protect every single day. The $6,000 across-the-board raise guaranteed under our police union contract represents the biggest raise in the history of the department,” he said, noting that there was some way to go toward equating salaries in neighboring departments. 

In conclusion, Clark said, the proposition “was a referendum on the St. Louis City police department, and the results were crystal clear. Residents support the police!” 

The union made national headlines for racist posts on its website against African-Americans this year. 

Pruitt said that cooperation must exist between the police and the community and that it could not be achieved with a police association hell-bent on the elimination of the circuit attorney, who is black.

“Police cannot effectively do their job under a cloud of distrust from the community and prosecution. Something must give,” he said. 

However, Pruitt said, “We support fair and equitable policing and prosecution within our neighborhoods and within our police department.’”

He also said the response by blacks regarding the escalating violence was rightfully frantic. 

“Our loved ones are dying by the hands of our neighbors and, in some cases, the police,” he said. 

Along with the St. Louis NAACP, members of the Community Justice Coalition include: Organization for Black Struggle; Coalition of Black Trade Unions; Universal People’s Organization; St. Paul AME Church; International Black Freedom Alliance; Campaign for Respect, Fairness & Human Dignity; Community Block Unit #302; Coalition Against Police Crimes & Repression; Peacekeepers; Missionary Baptist State Convention, Missouri; and Muhammad Mosque #28.

Bill Beene

bill.beene@thenorthsider.com Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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