Facilitating Efficiency Through Consolidation of Police Departments
The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:
- The St. Louis region is currently served by 60 police departments of varying sizes and service levels.
- The region’s 60 police departments range from large, full-service agencies to small municipal departments. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department are larger departments; both are well-established, comprised of several hundred sworn officers, and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) (PERF Report, 2015). The St. Louis County Police Department also provides other services, including dispatch, jail, investigative and forensic support, and SWAT/special operations, to several municipal departments in the county. In contrast, St. Louis County’s 58 municipal police departments are generally smaller–some have only five to 10 officers serving geographic areas as small as a tenth of a square mile–and rely on other area agencies for support beyond basic patrol services (PERF Report, 2015).
- In a series of three reports on policing in the St. Louis region, which were commissioned by Better Together, the Police Executive Forum identified several negative consequences of policing fragmentation. These consequences include confusion and anxiety among civilians, inefficiency, variation in the quality and professionalism of police services, and difficulty fostering and maintaining interdepartment partnerships due to the large number of local departments (PERF Report, 2015).
- Better Together’s first report painted a deeply fragmented picture:“Rarely are the day-to-day lives and safety of residents in our region solely the responsibility of the municipality in which they live. For example, a resident of Ellisville traveling to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis passes through the jurisdictions of 10 police departments. A Brentwood resident flying to California would pass through 6 states while in 1 flight, but only after driving through 15 separate police jurisdictions during a 14-minute trip to Lambert St. Louis International Airport” (Better Together, 2015a).
- Better Together’s second report identified significant differences in police training, accreditation, and licensure across the 60 area police departments (Better Together, 2015b).
- Better Together’s third report showed significant disparities between departments with respect to the equipment and resources afforded to officers:“[S]ome departments provide everything from body armor to service weapons to radios to winter caps. Other departments provide nothing more than a badge and an identification card. Still others issue body armor only ‘when funds are available.’ The data shows that departments’ ability to keep their officers safe and well-equipped varies from municipality to municipality” (Better Together, 2015c). This report also showed that over 20 dispatch hubs handle calls for help (Better Together, 2015c).
- Policing services cost the St. Louis region approximately $355 per person as compared to $242 per person in Indianapolis/Marion County and $257 in Louisville/Jefferson County (Better Together, 2015a).
These findings prompted the Commission to draft several calls to action regarding the consolidation of area police departments in order to improve both efficiency and the quality of policing.
To that end, the Commission issues the calls to action below.
An open letter to Mayor Lyda Krewson from Rebeccah Bennett and Zachary Boyers, Co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson, on the public safety opportunity in front of our region. Click here to download a pdf of the open letter. Mayor Krewson, The retirement of Police Chief Sam Dotson represents a new day for public safety in St. Louis….
Suggested Reading List
Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) (2015). Overcoming the Challenges and Creating a Regional Approach to Policing in St. Louis City and County. Retrieved from:http://www.policeforum.org/assets/stlouis.pdf
- Better Together. (2015a). Police report #1:Regional overview. Retrieved from:http://www.bettertogetherstl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BT-Police-Report-1-Full-Report-FINAL1.pdf
- Better Together. (2015b). Police report #2:Licensure and accreditation. Retrieved from:http://www.bettertogetherstl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BT-Police-Report-2-Licensure-and-Accreditation-Full-Report-FINAL1.pdf
- Better Together. (2015c). Police report #3:Equipment, dispatch, and mutual aid. Retrieved from:http://www.bettertogetherstl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BT-Police-Report-3-Full-Report.pdf
- Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) (2015). Overcoming the challenges and creating a regional approach to policing in St. Louis City and County. Retrieved from:http://www.policeforum.org/assets/stlouis.pdf