Missouri Governor Jay Nixon enjoyed a friendly visit to his home turf in Jefferson County yesterday while stumping for two Democrats running for state office -- including former cop and and current State Representative Jeff Roorda.
Roorda is running for a seat in the state senate, and he's leaning heavily on his record as a defender of law enforcement to get there. He currently serves as the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, where he also helps oversee Shield of Hope, the charity behind the recently-deactivated GoFundMe campaign for Ferguson cop Darren Wilson.
"You've seen a lot of leaders go through that Senate seat. It's been a voice in the Missouri Senate, for working people, for education, to make sure that folks follow the rule of law. Jeff Roorda fits right in there," said Nixon, addressing a modest crowd gathered at Roorda's campaign headquarters in House Springs, some 30 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Tuesday was a busy day for Roorda. Just hours before his joint campaign rally with fellow Democratic state representative Michael Frame, Roorda had warned St. Louis aldermen during a hearing that the city cannot purchase body cameras on a whim. By law, any decision related to police equipment must go through the collective bargaining process with the police union, which Roorda represents.
During the hearing yesterday morning, public safety director Richard Gray revealed the estimated price tag for outfitting the city's police officers with body cameras -- $1.2 million, but that number doesn't include the $500,000 to cover labor and maintenance costs.
"My basic point was that we've got a union here," Roorda told Daily RFT while awaiting Nixon's arrival at the campaign rally. "We have not said once that we don't want body cameras. We just said we want a place at the table to discuss how and when they'll be used. We expect the city to abide the law and negotiate with us."
But Roorda's misgivings about body cameras -- and police oversight in general -- go much deeper. He was criticizing the practice of recording police officers long before Michael Brown's shooting sparked popular demand for on-duty officers to wear body cameras. The troubling ambiguities that surround Brown's death haven't changed his mind, either.
"All we know about Ferguson is that officer Wilson was tried in the court of public opinion," said Roorda, who disagrees with those who argue the cameras would help protect citizens from excessive force by police.
In fact, Roorda has been pushing for less transparency in Missouri's police departments.
Earlier this year, Roorda sponsored a bill that, if passed, would have amended Missouri's Sunshine Law to prohibit police departments from releasing "any record or document regarding internal investigations by law enforcement agencies into the fitness and conduct of a law enforcement officer." The bill would also seal the name of police officers involved in shootings unless the officer has been charged with a crime as a result of the shooting.
"We ought to just worry about getting the truth of the matter," Roorda said, "and not just saying that cameras better protect the citizens. The citizens are not in danger because of the police. The citizens are safe because of police, and they will be less safe if we continue down this path of handcuffing police."
Continue for more of Roorda's opinion about what might be an acceptable use for body cameras, and also his troubling history as a police officer in Arnold
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