Hayden to retire in June; interim chief named while national search for replacement commences

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 8:37 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS CITY, Mo. (KMOV) - After postponing his February retirement, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden announced he will retire in mid-June.

In 2021, Hayden proclaimed he would retire in February 2022 after 35 years on the force. He later announced he would postpone his retirement as the search for his replacement continued. Hayden, accompanied by Dr. Dan Isom, SLMPD John Hayden and Lt. Col Michael Sack, stated he will officially retire on June 18 at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve this city. I love this city,” said Hayden. “I’ll always be here.”

After Hayden retires, Lt. Col. Sack will take over as the interim police chief until Mayor Tishaura Jones’ administration finds a permanent replacement. Sack thanked the mayor for having confidence in appointing him and adds he wants to focus on creating positive change. Citing learning from Hayden’s leadership, Sack said he’s “confident that I’ll be able to carry out these responsibilities without any issue.

Lt. Col Michael Sack
Lt. Col Michael Sack(St. Louis Police Department)

Sack joined the department in 1994. In 2007 he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to District Seven. The following year he earned the rank of captain. In 2015 he was promoted to major, and four years later he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Hayden was appointed Chief of Police in 2017, replacing Acting Chief Lawrence O’Toole who took over when Sam Dotson retired. In his time with the St. Louis Police Department, Sack has served as the Commander of Crimes Against Person, Commander of the Central Patrol Division, Commander of Professional Standards and commanded the Bureau of Community Policing.

Mayor Jones said the Regional Business Council will help to provide resources to assist with a nationwide search for an official replacement.

“Our next police chief must believe in transforming public safety, be ready to deploy innovative solutions and be committed to building trust with communities through collaboration on record,” Jones said.

Touching on the previous search, Jones admitted there were some issues.

“We didn’t cast the net wide enough in my opinion and we want to make sure that we are able to keep our promises to the community and be transparent,” Jones said. “It may very well be that after this next search he [Sacks] does become chief, but we wan to make sure that we keep our promise to the community to be transparent and to present all of the candidates for various town halls and neighborhood meetings.”

The Ethical Society of Police released the following statement about Sack:

“It’s all politics,” said St. Louis alderman and public safety committee chair Joe Vacarro. “Let’s don’t waste a lot of people’s time on these worldwide searches if we already know who we’re going to put in. We shouldn’t have to look any father than our on backyard. Col. O’Toole sued and won his lawsuit so that should tell you even that that what they’re doing is wrong. So, you take out O’Toole put in Sack.”

Vacarro is referring to a lawsuit by Larry O’Toole. He was interim chief when he drew ire for comments about “police owned the night” following protests in 2017. O’Toole eventually got passed up for chief and Hayden got the promotion.

“I would rather take the time and get it right than to rush into it and then six months or a year out we begin to question the decision,” said James Clark, vice president of public safety for the Urban League in St. Louis. “Well, I would rather have them take their time and do it right. I trust the mayor. I trust those in her cabinet and I believe that they’re going to do what’s best for the neighborhoods.”

Lt. Col. Sack will officially become interim chief June 19th. The day after Hayden retires. The St. Louis Police Officers Association called the move a “welcome change” but cautioned that nothing would improve if there was not an effort to engage the police union in an ongoing dialog about the future of the department.

“We welcome change and we welcome Sack,” Police Association president Jay Schroeder. “We want to work with him to make this a better place to work and a safer place to live. But if this administration decides, as the last one did, to go-it-alone and embrace the staus quo, then all of our efforts to return this agency to its former glory and to take back the streets from the criminals who rule them now, will be for naught.”

The association plans to ask the incoming administration for a meeting. They also warned that if the union is not at the table with a voice on who the permanent police chief will be and how he or she is selected, the process is doomed to failure.