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Gov. Mike Parson added a curious twist to the current special legislative session to address violent crime.

He's expanded the scope of the session by asking lawmakers to give the state attorney general's office the power to take on murder cases not yet prosecuted by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office.

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to hear Parson saying: "You're not doing your job, so we're sending in the big guns to do it for you."

Parson, and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, both Republicans, don't see eye-to-eye with Democrat Kim Gardner, the St. Louis prosecutor. Both have complained Gardner hasn't done enough to prosecute criminal suspects who have been arrested.

Schmitt has criticized Gardner for not aggressively pursuing charges against protesters arrested for trespassing, burglary, property damage, assault and theft after the death of George Floyd. Gardner did, however, charge St. Louis residents Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use of weapons and pointing firearms at protesters. The McCloskeys said they were protecting themselves and their home from threatening protesters.

Both Parson and President Trump criticized Gardner for charging the McCloskeys.

Now, Parson is asking lawmakers to let the AG take over St. Louis murder cases if at least 90 days have passed, the chief law enforcement officer requests the attorney general's assistance and the circuit attorney has not yet filed charges.

The move is needed, Parson said, because St. Louis has seen an increase in homicides, while murder prosecutions have decreased.

He has a point, but his proposal isn't the best way to address the problem.

Parson said his proposal is to help the St. Louis prosecutor's office, and isn't a personal attack, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Everybody ought to be working together," the paper quoted Schmitt saying.

But Schmitt and Parson acknowledge they didn't consult Gardner about the proposal, and Gardner doesn't support it.

"This bill does nothing to actually address the underlying issues that are driving violent crime," Gardner said in a statement Monday, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Parson is right: St. Louis has a serious problem with homicides.

And Gardner is right: Parson's proposal doesn't address the underlying issues of violent crime. For that reason — and the fact that election-year politics clearly are at play — we can't recommend the Legislature adopt the governor's proposal.

Among other things, the program could set a bad precedent. What if other counties need state resources to prosecute crimes? Many county courts manage high caseloads. Cole County, being the seat of state government, is one.

And what about the state public defender's office? They've been overloaded and woefully underfunded for years.

Lawmakers should spike Parson's request and focus on more meaningful ways to address violent crime.

News Tribune

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