Saturday, June 17, 2006

OVER THE FENCE by Joe Morice

The Great Foristell Salary Mystery

On I-70 at the westernmost St. Charles/Warren County line, there is an overpass with an exit ramp to some truck stops, gas stations and the tiny town of Foristell. After passing under the overpass, you will see a gap in the divider cables of I-70 and quite often, a police car or two parked in it.

According to, as of 2000, the city consisted of 5 square miles and a population of 331 souls of which 93 were city residents. By 2004 they had 336, a gain of 1.5%. In 2002, Foristell had ten full time employees in its government and nine part timers. Six of the full time employees were Policemen with one part timer. To pay all these employees, this tiny city had to raise 331,512 dollars per year. Not counting costs for equipment, buildings and etcetera, it amounted to nearly a thousand dollars per resident. I’m sure a few small businesses took some of that burden.

Now it’s the middle of 2006 and according to the shiny new Foristell Police web site, they now have fifteen police officers and a drug-sniffing dog named Turbo. According to the Foristell Chamber of Commerce, the community now has a population of about 500. Apparently, urban sprawl has arrived, however small. The ratio amounts to, one policeman for every 33 residents. If the city of St. Charles had the same ratio, in 2004 they would have had to pay for well over 1800 policemen. They had 107, one for every 594 residents.

The question becomes obvious: “In a community as tiny as Foristell, Missouri, how could they possibly support such a large city government?”

Rumors abound.

There are a few mobile homes but I question the rumor that besides tornados, they cause Meth Labs and in this case, city revenue. I would opt for revenue from speeding tickets.

When you are traveling on I-70 and you see that gap in the divider fence, you will often see a shiny new Foristell police car pointing a radar gun at you. Sometimes you see a couple of St. Charles County Sheriff’s cars sitting there but I haven’t noticed whether they are pointing any electronic gizmos at anyone. One wonders if they are plugging that gap for any reason having to do with the local constabulary and their alleged income-enhancing machine. Are they slowing it down or aiding and abetting?

In 2003, Foristell had one robbery, five assaults, three burglaries, forty larcenies, and one car theft. At about seven or eight crimes for each policemen, I would find it interesting to know how many of them were solved. Besides pointing radar guns and writing tickets, I assume they have someone trained to investigate crime. Perhaps I’m paranoid because of the Post-Dispatch expose’ of the small municipalities along I-170 in nearby St. Louis County in which many of their policemen were not real policemen. By that I mean, “Trained Policemen”. I find it hard to believe real policemen would support a scenario of preying on motorists for fun and profit.

Perhaps Foristell found some other way to pay for all those policemen and supporting judiciary. It seems doubtful 500 residents would hand out hundreds of thousands each year for police protection. Perhaps a contemporary of John Bearsford Tipton lives nearby.

I remember the days when policemen fought crime and kept order. Some of them even walked a beat and twirled a nightstick. If someone was speeding, traffic cops usually pulled them over and either chewed them out for being careless or cited them or both. Drunk drivers were stopped and sometimes, they were jailed. At other times, if they were civil and properly ashamed, they were taken home, if it was nearby. Roadblocks were for catching bank robbers and kidnappers and the State Patrol took care of highway traffic. Generally, police were benevolent.

Traffic fines enhanced the city revenues back then as well, but towns as tiny as Foristell were lucky to pay for one part-time policeman. My hometown was probably ten times larger and they had one full time Sheriff and an occasional deputy. Sometimes, traffic violations ended in a shouting match but seldom did anyone get a speeding ticket unless they were driving like idiots. Except for a shotgun in the trunk of the town’s only police car, the Sheriff I remember was unarmed. Never once did he utter, “Freeze, Dirt bag!“ Or “Make my day, Punk.” He wasn’t above stopping and passing the time of day with local citizens. He knew almost all of them.

I haven’t had a speeding ticket in many decades but even so, I sometimes long for those days. I’d bet I-70 speeders in Foristell do, too.

Joe Morice “Over the Fence”