St. Louis County Executive Sam Page appointed two North County African-American women with track records of community advocacy to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners on Thursday, November 14.
His appointees are Laurie Punch, MD, an associate professor of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, and Thomasina Hassler, an assistant professor at Harris-Stowe State University and a scholar in residence at University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Pending County Council approval, they would replace current board members Bishop Lawrence Wooten and Art Johnson.
Dr. Punch, who lives Ferguson, focuses on resident education in gun violence management and prevention. She also runs Stop the Bleed STL, a non-profit collaborative of health professionals working to reduce the impact of violence, trauma, and injury in the St. Louis region.
Along with performing artist Marty K. Casey, Dr. Punch will present a Stop the Bleed and Un-Gun Workshop at a town hall meeting organized by state Rep. Alan Green (D-67) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 21 at Black Jack Fire Protection District building, 5675 N. Hwy 67 in Florissant.
In May, her work was featured in a TED talk entitled “How Bullets Go Deep,” a powerful personal statement on the damage caused by gun violence and the need for sensible gun control.
Hassler, who lives in Black Jack and is a former classroom teacher in the Saint Louis Public School District, wrote about the Ferguson unrest in a September 2015 commentary in The St. Louis American.
“The bitter fruit of planned inequality has come into full bloom,” she wrote. “When decades of policies and legislation have been enacted to structure and maintain a society that benefits some at the expense of others, it should come as no surprise that volatile responses will come from oppressed communities.
She has a PhD in Education with an emphasis in social justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and serves as the director of Social Justice Ministry at West Side Missionary Baptist Church.
“Dr. Punch and Professor Hassler will make a great addition to the police board as we continue this critical transition period,” Page said in a statement. “Change in the police department begins at the top and, in St. Louis County, that is the police board. We will continue making changes in a thoughtful manner to ensure a welcoming work environment for our police employees while providing the high-quality police services that keep our residents safe.”
If confirmed, Dr. Punch and Hassler will join Michelle Schwerin to form the first majority-female police board in county history.