St. Louis’ top cop pushes back against proposed police board

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The fight for controlling the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is brewing again.

Senate Bill 808, or the Safer St. Louis Act, would create a Board of Police Commissioners.

St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy testified at the Missouri State Capitol on Wednesday against the legislation.

“We have made strides,” he said.

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The chief said the city’s plan to reduce crime is working, with homicides down 21% in 2023.

“My concern is if we disrupt and go back to another system, it’ll take years to recover from this,” Tracy said.

The bill, proposed by State Sen. Nick Schroer (R-St. Charles), would create the board. It would include the mayor and four citizens of St. Louis, appointed by the governor.

St. Louis Police Officers’ Association (SLPOA) President Jay Schroeder supports the legislation.

“Crime over the last decade has forced businesses out of the city and cost many innocent lives,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said Tracy is doing a good job of leading SLMPD but believes Tracy could do his job more efficiently without political interference.

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“In the last decade of local control, I’ve seen a once-proud police department crumble under city politics and political agendas,” Schroeder said. “Manpower and morale is at an all-time low.”

The city said 210 officers left SLMPD in 2022 and 139 resigned in 2023.

Tracy said a recent raise helped with morale and kept St. Louis competitive at recruiting.

“Fourteen police officers that had left our department have come back and sworn them back in,” Tracy said.

Sergeant Donnell Walters, president of the Ethical Society of Police, said 14 have returned, but 139 have left.

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“The morale of our department is slowly diminishing,” Walters said. “When you see officers, good friends of mine, saying, ‘Hey, I’m giving the city money so I can buy my time to leave,’ that’s disheartening.”

Tracy said police departments across the country are losing officers.

“When we talk about losing officers, this is not a state control versus local control. This is a crisis throughout the United States,” he said.

The mayor’s chief of staff also testified during the senate committee hearing. He pointed out the rise in crime in Kansas City. That municipality has been under state control for years and recorded a record number of homicides in 2023.

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