St. Louis mayoral candidates

(St. Louis mayoral candidates, clockwise, top left: Tishaura O. Jones, Andrew Jones Jr., Cara Spencer and Lewis Reed.)

Ahead of the St. Louis Primary Election on March 2, The St. Louis American is asking a series of questions of the candidates for mayor of the city of St. Louis. Following are their responses.

What does “defund the police” mean to you, and do you support it?

Andrew Jones Jr.

While I know that “defund the police” has evolved to mean “restructure police budgets to allow for more social intervention from licensed clinicians” in many eyes, I do not believe that every police protestor holds that feeling. 

I think a surprising amount of the citizenry wants to strip the funding from our police forces, which I do not agree with. While our police have not been perfect, I do feel that they are doing their best and to take away funding while we are facing the worst murder numbers of any city in the nation would be ill-advised. 

We must instead implement the best possible practices to make sure the men and women who provide selfless service to our communities can be both safe and effective. This should include a transparent review process for any use of force or weapons discharge.

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Tishaura O. Jones

The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd reopened a wound of mistrust between the Black community and the police that had never properly healed in the first place. Calls to defund the police have echoed throughout almost every major city in our country. A study using 60 years of data showed that an increase in funding for police did not reduce crime. 

We must expand our understanding of what actually works and invest in those things accordingly. Defunding the police does not mean abolishing the police. Instead, it means restructuring the department and reallocating the budget to programs and resources that actually prevent crime, like investments in substance abuse and mental health services, job training programs, connecting the right professionals to the right 9-1-1 calls, and being a better partner with our education system.

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Lewis Reed

I have heard many people give it many meanings. Here are some of the things I have done. I brought the program Cure Violence to St. Louis. I sponsored the Board bill to move $2 million a year from punitive activities to fund this non-police approach to crime.  I recently voted to move just under $900,000 from punitive activities to fund a program that routes some 911 calls to social workers and adds social workers to the response team for some 911 calls, relieving this task from police. I created the Youth Crime Prevention Fund that has funded over $12 million to youth programs and served over 20,000 kids. 

I have shifted this funding to produce better outcomes.  We have to end this plague of crime that is taking so many African American lives in this city. My goal as mayor will be to make everyone safe from violent crime.

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Cara Spencer

“Defund the police” is a confusing term that means different things to different people, and for that reason alone, it isn't a good starting point for building consensus around concrete solutions. We need to do a better job funding a wide spectrum of needs related to public safety, especially in the areas of mental health, domestic violence and social needs. 

Last week, I released a comprehensive, 10-step crime plan that I will implement in my first year in office. A large part of that plan is dedicated to improving the trust between our communities and the police department and focuses on shifting emergency response from police to social service providers. We will not be able to reduce crime if our citizens do not feel comfortable calling first responders. This will not happen unless we begin to mandate transparency in our police department and demand accountability as well.

The St. Louis American invites the voters of St. Louis to submit questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please send your questions to llockhart@stlamerican.com.

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