Justin Sparks has devoted his life to public service, although he never expected to find himself representing his St. Louis community in the Missouri House of Representatives.
After spending his entire professional career in law enforcement, the St. Louis native felt a calling from the Lord and a desire to make a bigger impact. Last November, Sparks ran for office to represent District 110, which covers western St. Louis.
Since taking office in January, he’s emerged as a leader on top conservative priorities like reducing crime and fighting radical gender ideology. Sparks, a husband and father of six, spoke to The Daily Signal about the policy debates playing out in Missouri and why he encourages other Americans to get involved. Listen to the interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast” or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: You bring a unique perspective to the Missouri House of Representatives. Could you tell us why you decided to run for office?
State Rep. Justin Sparks: My background is a little bit different. I was in law enforcement for 15 years and became a sergeant. Most of my time was spent in the SWAT team and in special operations.
I come from a family of law enforcement—my father, my uncle. My brother-in-law, well, lost his life in the line of duty. So, it’s a very deep felt calling we felt, our whole family, and I did as well.
But as I went through my career and I saw the demoralization and the attacks on the institution of law enforcement, I was really troubled. I was troubled seeing the institutions in our country really suffering and it started to trouble me.
I wanted to help in a bigger way. I felt a prompting, a calling. I didn’t know what it was, what that was going to look like. I talked to my wife. We had no idea. We definitely did not think it was going to be public office.
What ended up happening was I prayed about it. And I woke up one day and I, really, out of the blue, I know it sounds corny or whatever, but I felt that the Lord was saying, “Hey, listen, you’re going to run for office.” I wish I could say that I had enough faith to say, “Yeah, I was going to be a representative for—” But I looked up how much money they make. They don’t make very much money, and I have six children. So, I had no idea what it was going to look like.
But we made a decision and we told our family, our immediate family, and about five other people, “Hey, I’m going to run for office. I don’t know what office it’s going to be exactly, but we’re going to take a step forward, let the Lord guide us, open doors or close doors.”
And to be honest with you, nothing happened for six months, nothing happened. And I just figured I missed it. But six months later, one of those five people I talked to called me and said, “The representative in your district is stepping down and would you be willing to fill in basically what was a special election?” I prayed about it. Had 24 hours, prayed about it. The Lord opened the door and here I sit.
I would just tell you, I’ve never been more motivated in my life as right now. The idea of objective truth disintegrating in front of us on all sides, I feel that I was called for such a time as this, and I feel like you are called for such a time as this to do exactly what you are doing. And everybody that hears our voice today has a job to do. So, that’s why I’m here.
Bluey: What was it like for your family to make this decision? So many people are scared from seeking public office because of the scrutiny that comes with it—the biased news media and the light shined on your personal lives. How did your family grapple with that? And as you were praying, why did you ultimately decide that this was the path that you wanted to take?
Sparks: You’re right, it is an unpleasant experience. First of all, nobody wants to be labeled a racist or a bigot. Nobody wants to be called things or lied about. And all of those things have happened in a very short period of time.
Now, I’m not stupid and frankly, I understand and I know that that’s part of this. And I think my experience in law enforcement really, I don’t know, gave me a thick skin, prepared me for this, because I definitely am a different type of representative, I’ve noticed that, and in a good way. And my fellow representatives, they tease me a lot because they say, “You are completely different.”
It’s because I was there in 2014 on the front lines when Michael Brown was killed and in Ferguson, Missouri, if you’re familiar with that incident. And I’ve, trust me, been subjected to some terrible things.
So, your experience in law enforcement, when you have to go through a door to arrest a murderer who has stated that he’s going to kill anybody that comes through the door, and you have to go through that door and you have to take him into custody with their fellow officers—I don’t know, going into the Capitol and engaging in these issues in a different type of battle, it didn’t intimidate me.
And I enjoy it because I know that I’m being called and fulfilling a role to engage in a new type of battle. And it’s a battle that every single person hopefully can find a way to contribute to in their own life.
Bluey: Law enforcement issues have played a big role in your life, but also the St. Louis community. We’ve had Eli Steele speak to The Daily Signal. He’s the producer of a documentary called “What Killed Michael Brown?”
I know that this has been a focus of yours in terms of the legislation that you’ve sponsored in the Missouri House of Representatives. As we think about the increase in crime confronting so many communities across the country, what is it like there? And what can you, as an elected representative, do to address the challenges?
Sparks: Crime is a terrible problem across the country. And it is my conviction that the genesis of this problem began, or at least was revealed in some unique way, in 2014 with Ferguson. This is really where Black Lives Matter, as an organization, found its voice. If you remember, the Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, was on the streets in Ferguson.
I’ll tell you this, we knew, as police officers and SWAT officers, that something, the dynamic had completely changed. We knew that we were never going back. I was troubled by it. I still am. The roots of “defund the police” were very evident. I remember people like Don Lemon from CNN coming in and the comments he made.
And I remember a reporter from USA Today riding in our armored vehicle with us all night long witnessing being shot at, witnessing what was going on firsthand. I remember pleading with him, “What are you going to say to your paper, to your bosses, tomorrow morning?” And he said, “I promise you I’m going to tell them everything that I saw here tonight, and I bet none of it makes it into the news.” He told me that. And I knew right then and there, wow, we’re facing something different.
We’re not facing the truth. We’re not facing objective truth anymore of you say your side, report the facts, let the viewer decide. We are truly facing something deeper and darker, in my opinion, of controlling a narrative, of attempting to produce and control a narrative and an agenda, a hidden agenda that, in my opinion, is becoming much more obvious.
So yes, in St. Louis, we have quite an increase in violent crime. And because of my background in law enforcement, I really wanted to try to do something about that. But it’s deeper than that. It’s not just crime. Crime is affecting most of our major urban cores and there’s various reasons. We could talk all day on some of those reasons. Fatherlessness and obviously, the deep impact that has on families and community. But it’s more than that.
In St. Louis, we have a George Soros-funded prosecutor named Kim Gardner. And I have direct, obviously direct, experience working with her office and other prosecutors in the region. The difference between working with a George Soros-funded prosecutor and a prosecutor that’s actually trying to do his or her job is night and day.
That’s what we’re facing. We’re facing basically a prosecutor that either can’t do her job or refuses to do her job, or some kind of combination of both.
And it’s my opinion that she looks through everything through the prism of race. And there’s people all over the country that are doing this now. I didn’t coin this to term and I’m trying to remember who did, but it’s the term of a racialist, not racist, but racialist, looking through everything through the prism of race. We see this everywhere now.
The problem when you’re doing something like this when you’re a prosecutor or in police work is you’re not focused on the mission. The mission of a prosecutor should be to take the cases the police bring to you, look at them objectively, and try to get justice for these families.
When you are focused on more things like, well, a certain minority group has been targeted and their incarceration rates are so much higher because they’ve simply been targeted by white supremacist police officers—No. 1, isn’t true, isn’t even close to accurate. But that’s the narrative. And then, you start making decisions, as a prosecutor, that the police are the enemy and the violent criminals are the ones that you’re trying to help.
I wish it wasn’t the case, but that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to both with personal experience with that office and through the statements and actions since being in the Legislature. That’s what we’re facing.
Unfortunately, the perception is that St. Louis is a failed city, an extremely violent region. And when you have businesses that are looking to invest in your community, they look at St. Louis and they say, “Why in the world would we ever bring an economic investment to St. Louis when not only is there violent crime, but there’s no prosecution of violent criminals? The violent criminals are being released.”
And finally being part of the state Legislature, it’s part of the reason I believe I was called to be there, is that we realize that when your major urban cores suffer like this and they have prosecutors like this, that it affects the rest of the state.
And so, we’ve decided to do something about it. And thankfully, our attorney general, Andrew Bailey, has also decided to do something about it and is actively trying to remove her from her role.
Bluey: You are sponsoring several pieces of legislation that would address the crime issue and specifically the St. Louis situation. Can you speak to what those are and if they’re a model for other communities or other state legislatures to consider as well?
Sparks: Essentially, what we’ve done is we’ve passed legislation that will establish, once passed by the governor, will establish an independent prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, which will take over sole jurisdiction of the prosecution of violent crimes in the city. So, it will remove that responsibility from the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis City.
And that’s twofold. Not only will violent crime begin to be prosecuted and adjudicated, but no longer will the Circuit Attorney’s Office be able to target law enforcement officers in the execution of their duties. Meaning, if a police officer gets into a deadly shooting, a line of duty shooting, the circuit attorney is no longer going to be able to target those police officers because the individual prosecutor is going to have the sole jurisdiction over those matters.
That’s a big deal because this movement has affected law enforcement in such a significant way that we are seeing a mass exodus, a mass exodus from police departments, like the city of St. Louis Police Department.
Many officers who I’ve known for so many years, and many have already left, and many more considering to do so, because of what’s going on—they know that they’re targeted. And frankly, they are concerned that, if they do their job to the very best of their ability, that not only will they be second-guessed, but they’ll be prosecuted.
This is a theme that we’re seeing in cities all across the country. So, by putting an independent prosecutor in the city of St. Louis, we can try to mitigate that and I hope to do so.
Also, another piece of legislation is removing the control of the police department from the city of St. Louis elected officials and give it back to a board that’s appointed by the governor of the state of Missouri.
Now, this board is still residents of the city of St. Louis and elected officials still have a say on that board, but they no longer have control over the administration of the city police department.
That’s important because what we’ve seen is we’ve seen, just like woke institutions all across the country, wokeness has infected everything in the private sector, but it’s also infected everything in the public sector. Our military branches are a perfect example of that. And the police department is no different.
When I first started in law enforcement, politics was expressly prohibited. Politics, anything political was prohibited, because it didn’t matter what color, creed, or race you were, or even political party. your persuasion. Your mission was to the equal application of the law, to do the very best you could, and to administer justice. And that is no longer the case. Politics is in the middle of the police department.
What we’re trying to do by removing the administration of the police department from the city and give it back to the state, a state-appointed board, is to try to put a barrier, again, between the police department and politics.
So, the rank-and-file officers know I can go out, I can enforce the law, I can do my job, and protect and serve the citizens of St. Louis without having something over my shoulder of a political nature.
Bluey: I want to shift to a different topic, one that is also on the minds of many Daily Signal listeners, and that’s the issue of gender identity. And you are the sponsor of Missouri’s Children Deserve Help Not Harm Act. Tell us what it does and why that is an issue that you’ve decided to champion.
Sparks: I never thought that we would ever have to legislate on this issue, frankly, but this is where we find ourself. We have seen a 4,000% increase in people identifying as transgender.
Now, I understand that a lot of folks do not know or are not familiar with this topic, although it is becoming very quickly in the mainstream. But we’re talking about gender dysphoria, which is a mental illness. It’s essentially thinking that you are in the wrong body, that you are in the wrong gender, basically a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body.
What we have seen in this huge increase among children identifying as transgender is a completely different approach to this mental illness. Meaning, when a child says, “Maybe I’m transgendered,” in the past, medical professionals, school counselors, parents would say, “Well, let’s analyze this. Let’s see why you’re feeling this way. Let’s talk about this.” Instead, now we’ve learned that the approach has been to affirm that decision. Meaning, “Yes, you are transgendered. If you feel this way, you are transgendered.”
And the immediate application of therapies that include cross-sex hormones, or puberty blockers, or/and including mastectomies for females, which is called top surgery or bottom surgery. So, permanent, life-altering surgeries with the addition of these hormones that obviously can cause sterility. It’s chemical castration, frankly. And this is being done to minors.
I have had personal experience now speaking to kids that have gone through this that at 15 or 16 years old had their breasts removed, and have gone on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and are permanently altered, quite possibly permanently sterile, and can no longer nurse their children if they were ever to have children one day.
So as children, having life-altering, destructive, mutilating surgeries, frankly, on otherwise healthy, physically healthy bodies, when I talk to these people, these kids tell me, “At 13 or 14 years old, nobody ever told me I was not going to be able to have children one day and that I wasn’t going to be able to nurse my children, because that’s no longer physically possible.” And yet, here we are.
And so, what we’ve done by introducing bills, I’m one of three in the House and in the Senate, is to prohibit surgery, transgender surgery, and cross-sex hormones, and puberty blockers. And also these chemicals, these puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, one of them is called Lupron. It’s chemotherapy. It’s a cancer drug. It is not FDA-approved for this, but that’s exactly what it’s being used to do, to block the hormone development in these children, which permanently alters them and infects every cell of their body.
Frankly, I can’t believe that we have to legislate, that we have to pass laws to prohibit this, that any doctor in America today would look at this as a good idea. And frankly, it’s a horrific idea.
And the numbers are obvious. The data is so clear. We have data that shows that after these kids transition, they complete this transition that they think is going to help them feel better, that their suicide rates are 19 times higher than their peers.
We’ve seen therapies and surgeries affirming care like this in Europe has all been halted. We’ve seen it halted in Sweden, in Finland, in the U.K. for children under 18. In the U.K., the Tavistock center no longer allows this type of therapy for underage, for minors, because they have over 1,000 pending lawsuits.
What we’re seeing is there’s a social contagion aspect to this of kids wanting desperately to be accepted in a social group that is the hip, interesting thing. And they start to get on these chemicals, and puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and even have surgeries. And then, as they mature, they want go back. They want to detransition. And there’s no remedy for them now. It’s permanent.
And so, what we’re trying to do in Missouri is prohibit that. And other states have taken up the gauntlet. I’m not even going to tell you how unpleasant it is, because you’re called every name in the book. But this is the battle worth fighting.
Bluey: I imagine you are. And as a parent of six, and myself a parent of three, I know how pervasive it is in our culture today and our schools in particular. And so, parents really need to be on the watch for wherever their kids are, particularly social media platforms.
What advice do you have for other parents, other concerned citizens, maybe in your state or across this country, who feel motivated to do something? What steps should they be taking right now to get involved and make a difference?
Sparks: What a great question, Rob. I hope and I pray that every single person listening to my voice prayerfully considers what it is the Lord would have you do, because he will have you do something, I promise you.
And being a good patriot and on Election Day going and voting is not enough. It’s not enough. We are on the knife’s edge in our country. And if we all don’t join together and give every single thing that we possibly can do, maximum effort right here and now, it is my conviction that we’re going to wake up one day and we will have lost the republic.
I didn’t ask for this. But frankly, our generation didn’t ask for this, but yet here we are. It has come to us. There is an existential threat to the future of our nation and the republic that is so precious. It has come to us.
It’s like the spirit of the Lord goes to and fro looking for, whom shall I send? Who will go for us? And I encourage every single one of you listening to me, stand up and just simply say, “Here am I, Lord. Send me. I am willing.”
At Grace Church, I said, I really feel like there were better candidates than me. There were better people, smarter people, people with doctorates, people that have gone to Ivy League universities. Who would want a SWAT officer?
And you wouldn’t believe how much I took for that on Twitter, on my Democratic friends, my Democrat friends, saying, “I can’t believe this person relies on the guidance and direction of god,” with a little “G.” And I immediately responded to that and put it on social media and said, “I absolutely do.” I am proud of the fact that, yes, my worldview is fundamentally different from theirs.
But it’s not enough to simply say, “Oh my goodness, look at what’s going on in the world. I’m going to make sure I vote.” Yes, of course we have to vote. We have to vote in every single local election, school board election, city council, county council, alderman.
But it’s more than that. It’s, how can you serve? How can you do something? Whether it’s contributing with your money, whether it’s contributing with your time by walking in neighborhoods and passing out literature.
Or more simply than this, if you want to know what you can do, I’ll tell you what it is, you can start having uncomfortable conversations. And having conversations, not aggressively, obnoxiously, or out of a place of anger or hate, but out of a place of where it truly comes from, which is love, love for your fellow man and woman, love for your nation, love for your children and their future.
When people see that you are authentic, that you truly do care about them, you may disagree on everything, the one thing that you won’t disagree on is that you care. You care and you love them enough, as the Lord has called us to love our fellow neighbor, that you love them enough to fight for our country, the future of our country, and frankly, to have these conversations with every single person that you meet and every single opportunity that comes your way. Simply speak.
Bluey: How can our listeners follow you, support the work that you’re doing?
Sparks: SparksForMissouri.com. I’m on Instagram and Facebook. You can catch up with me that way. And more importantly, pray for me. Pray for everybody that has entered into this arena and has elected to serve, because it is a sacrifice. But we’re happy to do it, and I’m happy to do it, and I’m honored and privileged.
Bluey: Thanks for the time that you’ve spent with The Daily Signal. We certainly will be praying for you and look forward to keeping in touch with you and following on the various bills that you’re pushing through Missouri there. Best wishes with everything and let’s keep in touch.
Sparks: Absolutely. Thank you, sir.
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