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Study proposes changes in city police

CITY HALL – A national consulting firm is proposing major changes in the city police designed to  improve police procedures and reduce violence in St. Louis.

An administrative review of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department by the police consulting firm Teneo Risk was released Monday, the same day the  same firm issued a similar report for the St. Louis County Police Department. The Civic Progress companies and the St. Louis Regional Business Council paid for the studies.

In a teleconference with local reporters on Monday, the leader of the team of experts who did the study of the St. Louis police said the proposed changes could go a long way to cutting crime here.

“With time, patience and effort, believe me, St. Louis will lose that label that none of us want to ever see again and become a place that everyone is proud of,” said Charles Ramsey, who led police departments in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia. He also served for 30 years on the Chicago Police Department and last served as deputy superintendent.

The Teneo Risk team includes nationally recognized public safety experts, many of whom succeeded in large police departments in cities where crime went down.

Speaking on the positive side, Ramsey said the St. Louis police department had good police officers and leaders.

“They’re committed to serving this city. We didn’t have a single interview that did not reflect that,” Ramsey said. “I think that’s an important thing to note. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to improve.”

A key part of a turnaround would include a department-wide crime reduction strategy to reduce crime, along with community-oriented policing, Ramsey said.

It’s not that the department isn’t doing anything to cut crime, Ramsey said. “But [it’s] not as coordinated and strategic as we could be, leveraging all the resources that the department has available to it, making sure that everyone is singing from the same sheet of music.”

Ramsey urged more emphasis on hiring, to address a shortfall of 120 to 140 officers. But the police department also should reallocate resources, he said.

“Crime is not equally distributed across the city,” he noted.

Both Police Commissioner John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie M. Edwards said they didn’t think there would be problems implementing the changes, even if the mayor elected in April brings in new police leadership.

“It shouldn’t matter who the mayor is to implement something that’s actually a legitimate assessment,” Hayden said. “Many of the recommendations are legitimate and well-founded, and so we’ll be implementing as many as we can as soon as we can.”

Edwards said the fact that the recommendations were meant to decrease violent crime should make them easier to implement.

“Irrespective of who is in charge of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, that should be what we all want and what we all strive to get here,” Edwards said. “Those recommendations are recommendations that we certainly welcome. We want to be better.”

Among their recommendations, the consultants suggest that within the first three months, the organization and staffing should be changed to maximize resources.

Also within the first three months, there should be an effort to remove blocks between the police and the rest of the city’s organization, the study said.

The police should also determine crime hotspots and the best way to focus resources there.

In three to six months, the study said, an executive officer should be appointed to be the senior aide to the chief. That person would focus on implementing the chief’s goals and the strategic plan.

During that period, the department should improve intelligence within the department and adopt formal standards to make sure that public complaints voiced at community meetings are understood.

In the period six to 12 months after work begins, the study said, a strategic plan should be established. And there should be an effort to make sure employees, elected officials, the media and the public all understand it.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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