Ferguson and seventeen other municipal police departments in north St. Louis County should consolidate into bigger agencies, says the Police Executive Research Forum after a study of policing in the area, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The group recommends centralized training, data collection and communications for police across St. Louis city and county, and strengthening oversight of officers. PERF says the St. Louis area's fragmented, revenue-oriented policing, uneven standards for law enforcement officers and the perception of racial bias undermine public safety and have contributed to high crime rates and costly services. The report was commissioned by Better Together, a St. Louis-based nonprofit studying possible benefits of regional cooperation. Nancy Rice of Better Together called the research report the first blueprint for legislators and policymakers to enact reforms.
PERF said its conclusions were shaped in part by town hall meetings hosted by Better Together; focus groups; interviews with community leaders, elected officials, law enforcement officers and others; data analysis and an extensive review of research. “We're hoping that this report will make people stop and think, 'Is there a way we can do things better?' because the status quo is not working,” said PERF director Chuck Wexler. Many St. Louis County police departments are “driven by the need to generate more and more revenue to fund the patchwork of dozens of local governments that exist in the county,” the report said. While crime rates are high in certain areas, “police departments are being pushed into the role of revenue generators” and “away from their traditional roles of community guardians and protectors.”