The City of St. Louis filed a lawsuit in Cole County on Friday against the state of Missouri and Attorney General Eric Schmitt to invalidate a law passed earlier this year giving law enforcement a wide range of protections.

Senate Bill 26, sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, is a 172-page omnibus bill with about six pages creating legal processes and protections when government agencies investigate alleged misconduct of officers while on duty and working secondary jobs.

“SB26 is an unfunded mandate that subverts equal protection guaranteed under the law,” said Nick Dunne, a spokesman for the mayor.

The new law also allows any taxpayer of a political subdivision to file a lawsuit if the municipality cuts the law enforcement budget by more than 12%.

The suit comes weeks after Schmitt offered to forgive $5 million St. Louis owes to a state legal settlement fund administered by his office, with the condition it be spent to hire more officers. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said she would accept the agreement if the funds could be used for other public safety initiatives.

“The Mayor’s war on police continues,” Chris Nuelle, a spokeman for the Attorney General, wrote in an email to The Center Square. “It’s sad that after the Mayor turned down our good faith offer to put more officers on the streets of St. Louis, the Mayor then files a lawsuit against the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights. Attorney General Schmitt will continue to vigorously defend the brave men and women of law enforcement.”

The six-count lawsuit argues SB26 violates the Missouri Constitution as it changed 14 statute areas unrelated to public safety.

“... SB26 includes a miscellany of provisions... ranging from circuit attorney payments, lotteries, pesticide regulations, electric fences and taxation to parole eligibility of certified juvenile convicts and the budgetary authority of local governments regarding law enforcement expenditures,” the lawsuit states. “The wide range of subjects, bearing little or no relationship to ‘public safety,’ is fatal to the validity of SB 26.”

The lawsuit alleges SB26 violates the Missouri Constitution’s Hancock amendment by requiring the city to spend money in defending and representing officers when they are sued, including when officers are sued for actions taking place when off duty and working secondary employment.

“This additional duty imposed upon City’s attorneys, who are municipal officers employed by City, is creating duties for Plaintiff City to represent officers while working secondary employment, which was not previously the case,” the lawsuit claims. “Further, additional duties are imposed upon the City's Civil Law Department that will necessitate the hiring of additional attorneys, outside counsel and paralegals to assist in representing law enforcement officers that were accused of misconduct in their individual capacities, including while working secondary employment. This includes, among other things, additional duties requiring attorneys to review litigation, take or defend depositions, prepare discovery, draft motions, and conduct a jury or bench trial.”

The suit states the “favored new classification of ‘law enforcement officers’” gives more due process rights during disciplinary investigations than other government employees.

“In addition, the favored class is guaranteed defense and indemnification against liabilities relating both to conduct as an employee and conduct while working in secondary employment, perquisites that are not accorded to … any other civil service employees of plaintiff City.”

The lawsuit says the new law’s provisions are unfair to other civil service employees.

“There is no conceivable permissible justification for this new legal distinction between favored ‘law enforcement officers’ and other government employees,” the lawsuit states. “It cannot be justified with reference to any purported special characteristic of public safety employment, as it is not based on either the identity of the public employees or the type of work they perform. Instead, this pervasive favoritism in the exercise of employee’s constitutionally protected rights turns solely on the type of job title an employee has. Thus, even units of public employees who are indisputably public safety employees — like fire fighters, emergency first responders, corrections officers — are not subject to the due process protections…”