St. Louis Budget for FY 2019 Includes $2 Million Increase for Police Payouts


Protests raged in St. Louis for more than a month in 2017 — but that's not why lawsuit payouts will cost more in 2019. - THEO WELLING
  • Protests raged in St. Louis for more than a month in 2017 — but that's not why lawsuit payouts will cost more in 2019.
Even as St. Louis is making tough cuts to address a $10.5 million budget shortfall, one city unit is asking for a $2 million increase — the police unit of the city counselor's office.

The unit's budget covers lawsuit payouts. But, cautions City Counselor Julian Bush, you shouldn't jump to conclusions. The hefty increase being sought in its preliminary budget has nothing to do with the protests that rocked the city in 2017. "This is about past history, not current history," he says.

The city has been hit with a number of lawsuits over the treatment of protesters last fall, including one from the ACLU, one from reporter Mike Faulk of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who was caught up in the department's infamous kettle, and another resulting from that same kettle, from a pair of Kansas City filmmakers who say they were sprayed with chemicals, beaten and arrested.

Even so, Bush says, at this point, he is not anticipating the kind of huge payouts that could strain the budget. "People have brought claims, but these people were only kept in custody a day," he points out. "We are not anticipating large payouts."

So what is driving the unit's 111 percent budget increase (from $1.8 million to $3.8 million)? Bush suggests it has to do with past cases. One likely suspect: the $14 million settlement granted to the family of George Allen, who was wrongfully convicted decades ago for the 1982 rape and murder of a St. Louis court reporter.

St. Louis Public Radio reported last month that the first $5 million installment was due in January. The city, whose officers allegedly beat a confession out of Allen, is sharing the burden with the state of Missouri.

Incidentally, even as the sins of the department's fathers are costing city taxpayers in fiscal year 2019, the police department is one of a select few that will see an increase to its own budget. Thanks to the sales tax increase that voters approved last fall, budget documents posted online show public safety's budget increasing to $364 million — a 7 percent increase from its budget in 2018. And that, of course, does not count payouts from lawsuits related to police conduct.

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