Rachel Lippmann

Reporter

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

Ways to Connect

Updated Dec. 20 at 2:00 p.m. with details of the buyback — St. Louis-area residents who have weapons they want to get rid of can exchange them for cash on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Private groups are financing and coordinating the program. People can turn in guns at the Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Only working firearms can be exchanged for cash.

A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said the program is targeted at guns from St. Louis, St. Louis County and East St. Louis, but those running the buyback won't have any way of knowing where a gun comes from. The weapons will be turned over to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which will check to see if the guns have been stolen or used in a crime.

The city of St. Louis is making additional beds available Thursday night for people who are homeless.

Temperatures were expected to drop into the teens overnight. The city is relying on a network of churches and other nonprofit groups this year to provide people who might not ordinarily seek shelter with a place to stay. Unlike previous years, it will not use the gym at the 12th and Park Recreation Center near the Soulard neighborhood.

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the electric car maker Tesla can be granted a license to sell cars in the state.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the association representing Missouri car dealers did not have the right to sue Tesla, and dismissed the case. The ruling means Tesla can apply to renew licenses for its two Missouri stores, and potentially expand across the state.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. Dec. 4 with comment from Green — St. Louis comptroller Darlene Green has decided to follow a judge’s order to issue $100 million in bonds to upgrade the Scottrade Center.

Green said in a statement that she has complied with the court ruling, and signed the required documents. But a spokesman said the bonds had not yet been issued, and Green may still appeal the ruling. Also on Monday, her attorney filed documents asking the judge to change the ruling.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen last week took a big step toward adopting one of the recommendations in the Ferguson Commission report.

By approving the Office of Community Mediation on a 26-0 vote, the city is embracing the idea that with a little help, communities can handle some disputes on their own, rather than relying on the police or the judicial system.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. Nov. 27 with comments from Conway — A 27-year veteran of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has resigned to become the city’s assessor.

Krewson’s office announced Monday morning that Alderman Steve Conway, D-8th Ward, would replace St. Louis assessor Freddie Dunlap, who recently retired. The assessor determines property values in the city.

The Missouri Supreme Court has set March 20, 2018, as the execution date for a Cape Girardeau man who shot and killed a romantic rival in 1996.

Russell Bucklew, 49, had previously been scheduled to die in 2014. But days before the execution date, he sued in federal court, arguing that he has a medical condition making lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution so the case could heard through the legal system.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. Nov. 20 with comments from Chief O'Toole — The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to investigate whether the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department violated the Constitution in the way it has handled recent protests demanding more police accountability.

Jeffrey Jensen, the federal prosecutor in St. Louis, announced the review in a brief statement Monday. It is based on a request made by Mayor Lyda Krewson and others, including U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City.

Updated Nov. 15 at 2:00 p.m. with comments from ACLU, Mayor Krewson — A federal judge has ordered the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to alter tactics its officers use to respond to protests, especially demonstrations aimed at changing law enforcement policies.

In a 49-page opinion issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry blocked the department from ordering protesters to disperse unless there’s an immediate threat of violence. Perry also limited when officers can use chemical agents like pepper spray or mace.

St. Louis aldermen are weighing whether to put new limits on the way the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department interacts with protesters.

The Public Safety committee on Tuesday heard two hours of testimony in support of the bill sponsored by Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward. It’s modeled on an ordinance in place in Washington, D.C.

Updated November 13 at 3:30 p.m. with comments from attorneys and the city — A local legal nonprofit has sued the city of St. Louis, saying conditions at the Medium Security Institution violate the rights of inmates.

ArchCity Defenders filed the federal lawsuit Monday on behalf of seven inmates who spent time at the jail. The suit accuses the city of ignoring unsanitary conditions that led to a variety of health problems, and providing inadequate medical care. Guards are also accused of goading inmates into fights, and sexually harassing female inmates.

Updated 12:15 a.m., Nov. 8, with additional comments — Police and firefighters in St. Louis will get a $6,000 raise in July, after voters on Tuesday easily approved a half-cent sales tax hike.

The tax increase measure, known as Proposition P, passed with close to 60 percent of the vote. It will kick in in early 2018, and is expected to generate about $20 million a year. Most of the money will go toward the raises, though the circuit attorney’s office will receive about $1.3 million.

Voters in the St. Louis region will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide on some key financial issues.

Most of the attention will be on St. Louis, where residents are being asked to raise the sales tax by a half-percent in order to pay police and firefighters more. Voters in St. Louis and St. Charles counties will decide an array of tax-related issues.

For the first time in 18 years, St. Louis’ 2nd Ward is getting a new alderman.

The seat opened up in August when Dionne Flowers resigned to become the register, the city’s top record-keeper. The ward encompasses six north St. Louis neighborhoods, stretching from north of downtown to the border with St. Louis County. Three candidates are running to take her spot.

Voters in St. Louis will go to the polls next week to decide whether to give the city’s police officers and firefighters a raise by boosting the city’s sales tax by a half-cent.

Proposition P is the second sales tax on the ballot in six months. Approval would push the rate to nearly 12 percent in some parts of the city. And the current climate around policing in St. Louis is making the measure a tough sell.

The city of St. Louis has pledged to let most people charged with municipal offenses go home without having to pay bail.

These changes are part of a court order finalized earlier this month. They were prompted in part by a federal lawsuit from the MacArthur Justice Center over the way people protesting Jason Stockley's acquittal of first-degree murder were treated by the police and courts. That lawsuit has since been dismissed.

The search for a new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department — underway since Sam Dotson retired in April — is into its sixth month.  Applications were due on Thursday, and a new chief should be in place by January.

The final steps of the process are taking place with the department under a bright spotlight from protesters demanding more police accountability, and the scrutiny could impact the way the rest of the search plays out.

Candidates interested in being the chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department have until Thursday to submit their applications for the job.

The city has been looking for a chief for the last six months after Sam Dotson's resignation. Phone interviews with qualified candidates are set to start in early November, with final interviews intended for mid-December. City officials hope to have a new chief selected by the end of the year.

A wide-ranging coalition is urging St. Louis residents to vote "no" on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase intended primarily for police officer and firefighter salaries.

If the measure passes in November, Proposition P would push the sales tax in some areas of St. Louis to nearly 12 percent. Opponents say it’s not fair to force already-struggling parts of the city to pay for policing that doesn’t benefit them.

Many people demonstrating over former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal of first-degree murder believe the Civilian Oversight Board needs more power.

But they are still being encouraged to file complaints with the board, which helps oversee police discipline.

Nearly 160 people have been killed in St. Louis this year, putting the city on pace for almost 200 homicides for the third year in a row.

Deniya Irving, 7, was almost among them. She was shot in the head in June, an incident that left her parents and another man dead. She was not expected to survive, but can now walk with a cane and speak a few words at a time.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday adopted a resolution in her honor, promising to work “within our communities to reduce the senseless, violent crimes” like the ones that left Deniya and her sisters without their parents.

Use-of-force policies for both the St. Louis Metropolitan Police and St. Louis County Police departments say officers can shoot someone to “protect themselves or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.”

Protesters who have been marching throughout greater St. Louis, demanding greater police accountability for more than a month, say those policies give officers too much leeway. They want more limits on when officers can draw and fire their weapons. But an expert on deadly force says the solution isn’t more restrictions — it’s better training.

St. Louis County has received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Justice to get the Castle Point community in north county more involved in fighting crime.

Parts of unincorporated north St. Louis County have struggled for years with high crime rates. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said the grant would help reverse that trend.

Updated Oct. 4 at 9:55 a.m. with the number of arrests — The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department arrested 143 people protesting Jason Stockley’s acquittal  Tuesday night after they blocked a section of Interstate 64 in St. Louis.

It’s the latest demonstration after a judge found Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, on Sept. 15. Demonstrators aredemanding police officers stop killing black people throughout St. Louis.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner contends the current system of investigating a police officer who kills someone is “broken,” prompting her to ask for more than $1 million for her department to handle the cases from start to finish.

Gardner brought her proposal to the public safety committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. Some committee members expressed support for the idea.

St. Louis Alderman Joe Vaccaro on Friday asked his Board of Aldermen colleagues to honor the city’s police officers, one week after they did the same for a black man killed by a white former police officer in 2011.

Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, introduced a resolution that thanks the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for working long hours to protect citizens and businesses during two weeks of protests since the Sept. 15 acquittal of Jason Stockley.

A simple concept underpins the American legal system: equal treatment.

But the ideal more often is missed than met — at least that’s what protesters argue during the near-daily demonstrations since the Sept. 15 acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the 2011 shooting death of a black man.

The recent events once again have some local attorneys trying to square their faith in a system they’re supposed to respect despite its flaws.

Protesters introduced a new demand Monday night: that St. Louis’ interim police chief step down immediately.

Their call for Interim Chief Larry O’Toole to leave the department’s head post comes more than a week into daily protests against a judge’s decision to acquit former officer Jason Stockley, who is white, in the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man.

 

Updated Sept. 27 with response from St. Louis officials — The City of St. Louis has asked the federal government to help with an independent investigation into two lawsuits and several complaints stemming from police response to protests that followed the acquittal of Jason Stockley, Mayor Lyda Krewson and interim Police Chief Larry O’Toole said Wednesday.

In a statement, the two said the investigation would focus on police conduct during the protests since the Sept. 15 decision, the dozen “grievances” filed with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division and the two federal lawsuits.

Ferguson has made good progress in reforming its police department and municipal court, a federal judge said Tuesday, though it’s far from over.

Ferguson’s police and court have been operating under federal oversight for more than a year. The city has written new policies on things like use-of-force and recruiting new officers, but has missed deadlines to implement them.

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