What did it mean to have policing divided among 123 jurisdictions in the six counties of metropolitan St. Louis?

Eleven years ago, Post-Dispatch reporters Heather Ratcliffe and Trisha L. Howard, and photographers Andrew Cutraro and David Carson, spent six months finding out.

Backed by a crew of graphic artists and editors, they delivered a five-part series called "The Law in Disorder," which ran Nov. 30-Dec. 3, plus Dec. 7, 2003.

It described a disjointed law enforcement system fraught with understaffing, unqualified or unfit officers and a scarcity of professional standards and policies.

Ratcliffe, Howard and Cutraro have moved on to other pursuits. But many of the problems they identified remain, and provide valuable context in the debate over the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson.

— Patrick Gauen, Public Safety Editor