Chief promises increased patrols while struggling to keep office - KMOV.com

Chief promises increased patrols while struggling to keep officers

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St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department struggling to keep and hire officers, Police Chief Sam Dotson says (Credit: KMOV). St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department struggling to keep and hire officers, Police Chief Sam Dotson says (Credit: KMOV).

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) – With two murders in the Central West End in September, the St. Louis City Police Chief has promised increased patrols, but the department is strapped and scrambling to hire more officers.

Chief Dotson said they are down about 115 officers with anywhere from four to six leaving each month. There are about 1,300 officers total in the force as of September 15. 

In the last 30 years, Dotson said the St. Louis population has dropped by about 26 percent. At that time, there were about 2,300 police officers. Even though there are 30 new recruits in the police academy, the department is losing two or three officers per pay period.

Chief Dotson said he believes salary is a major factor in the decrease of officers. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department offers a strong training ground where officers are exposed to a fast-paced environment and a variety of cases. After only two or three years on the force, officers are fairly well-rounded. 

With a strong resume, officers can leave for jobs in other districts that offer a higher salary. St. Louis City officers have a starting salary of around $42,000. Dotson said, “municipalities are looking to steal our talent away," and to do so they are offering higher salaries to officers.

"Here's the reality, I lose two to three officers every two weeks," Dotson said. “Starting salary in St. Louis County is almost 20 percent higher than in the city."

Dotson said he believes the starting pay needs to increase by $8,000-$9,000 for his department to remain competitive. Even with the 17 new officers that joined the department Thursday, the chief estimates the force is still short by about 120 officers. 

As the city is still trying to find ways to pay for more police, Dotson says the department utilizes a dedicated grant writer to find money anywhere in the country. Recently, St Louis Police got a grant to clear backlogged DNA cases.

Dotson says he was also in Washington two weeks ago to talk about money with the director of the FBI to see if dollars can be funneled down to local police.

Law enforcement recruitment is not just a local problem, agencies all across the U.S. are struggling to fill openings with qualified applicants.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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