The St. Louis Regional Chamber applauds St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards for moving quickly and deliberately in selecting a new Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Department. As a lifelong St. Louisan, Chief John Hayden knows our city. His 30 years of experience, including his time commanding the North Patrol and the Internal Affairs Divisions, will serve him well in engaging with the community and leading the SLMPD to provide its motto of “Service, Integrity, Leadership, and Fair Treatment to All.” He will have the benefit of public and private-sector leadership fully committed to providing him resources and supportive of tough decisions that may be needed in the months to come.
We are encouraged by the level of community involvement in the selection process, including interviews with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the public town hall meeting for candidates. Providing for the safety and security of all our neighborhoods is one of the most important functions of local government. Safety is critical to our economic growth, which is why it has been the Chamber’s top policy priority over the last few years.
However, Chief Hayden faces real challenges. First among these is the need to restore trust in our justice system in many of our neighborhoods, especially those where racial and economic disparities are most acutely felt. The Chief cannot simply lead from Police Headquarters on Olive Street, but must make a sustained effort to meet with the business owners, faith leaders, and demonstrators and take real action to address their concerns. We call on Chief Hayden to follow through on what he said during the press conference announcing his selection: focus on violent crime, increase community-oriented law enforcement efforts, get neighborhood input to improve community policing outcomes, and to continue to use his mobile office to be in the community he is responsible for policing.
The recent passage of Proposition P will help ease concerns about a salary gap between city and county officers. But we know the SLMPD continues to struggle to attract recruits – especially minority recruits – in numbers that will allow it to grow to authorized staffing levels. A diverse police force helps provide the department with institutional knowledge of certain aspects of the community. It increases the ability of officers to relate to people on a personal level, and helps reduce or eliminate stereotyping. In short, it creates better law enforcement outcomes. Chief Hayden should make recruitment and cultural sensitivity training a priority for the department.
And as we are already quite aware, our fragmented system makes it more difficult to provide for safety and security in our region. Crime does not respect political borders. We hope that Chief Hayden will work to improve the relationship between the SLMPD and surrounding law enforcement agencies, in particular the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, and key municipalities.
A 2018 with over 200 homicides is simply not acceptable. Chief Hayden and Public Safety Director Edwards must now act quickly to rebuild community trust and present us with a plan to make next year different than the one now drawing to a close. The Chamber and the private sector stand ready to do our part to help them both be successful.