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Police chief hopes ending St. Louis residency rule will mean 100 new officers over next year

Police chief hopes ending St. Louis residency rule will mean 100 new officers over next year

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John Hayden

St. Louis police Chief John Hayden, in a photo from October 2019. Photo by Troy Stolt, tstolt@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Police Chief John Hayden said Tuesday he hopes that the recent removal of the residency requirement for his department will help generate a net increase of about 100 officers over the next year.

“In an average year, our attrition rate and our hiring pretty much balances out,” Hayden told an aldermanic panel. “A reasonable hope is that people interested (in applying) doubles. So it’s possible we could make a lot of headway.”

The department is now 129 officers short of its authorized strength of 1,349.

Hayden emphasized that there’s no way of knowing how successful the residency repeal law, which was signed Monday by Gov. Mike Parson, actually will be in attracting new recruits. But he said it has been the top impediment in recent years.

“I don’t know how many will respond to this new possibility,” Hayden said.

Hayden, in a wide-ranging teleconference meeting with the Public Safety Committee, also said he would recommend deploying any net increase in officers to areas “where the most violent crime is.”

“As we add officers, we would give the most needed districts the officers as they come on,” Hayden said.

Hayden said he preferred beefing up enforcement and visibility in that way to increasing and revamping the number of police districts as proposed by the committee.

He said the idea wasn’t managerially feasible with the department’s chronic deficit of officers.

Committee chairman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, said he and other members of the committee continued to favor the plan.

Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, asked Hayden about the 50 residency rule waivers offered by the city for police recruits two years ago that largely went unused. Few applied and only one waiver was granted.

“Because they were told they’d have to renew every year, there was just a lot of uncertainty ... about what would happen” with the waivers, Hayden said.

Hayden also released updated statistics showing that murder and aggravated assault increased significantly in the city through August of this year over the same period in 2019 but that crime overall was down slightly.

The city had 36% more homicides in the eight-month period and 9.5% more aggravated assaults.

He said 114 of the 185 homicides through August had been in June, July and August. He said the killings in those three months were spread across 44 city neighborhoods.

Of those for which a cause could be determined, he said the most — 51% — appeared to be drug-related and 33% tied to a personal dispute.

“We’ve had to endure this surge in violent crime while we’ve experienced increasing violence against police officers this summer, with nine officers shot,” Hayden said. That includes the fatal shooting of Officer Tamarris Bohannon last month.

The data also showed that arson has increased 14.9% and vehicle theft 7.5% but that rape, robbery, burglary and larceny were down by 11.3%, 14.1%, 12.9% and 3.3% respectively.

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