Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department asks for pay raise to fix staffing issue

The Department will have only five patrol officers by end of business Friday.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- The Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department has a critical need for patrol officers because, at the end of the week, it will only have five of those officers to serve the city of more than 10,000 people.

The police department said for a city of that size, there should be 32 patrol officers.

“We need to reimage the city,” Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Chief Jeremy Ihler told the city board Wednesday night. “We need to improve our name. We need to change the way other cities, other people, other candidates for employment view our city.

Ihler said his officers need to earn more money but finding a funding source can be a problem. He also placed blame on some of the city’s board members, who he said are overstepping.

“I’ve had board members show up to traffic stops,” Ihler shared. “I’ve had board members show up to calls for service. I’ve had board members show up where they should not be. Anyone who does that runs the risk of getting hurt.”

Chief Ihler told a full room of community members that officers have left the force because of low pay and the region’s reputation for violent crimes. Plus, a number of complaints that some board members treat police poorly.

“The wrong narrative has been spoken about us,” Ihler said. “The people that do know us who have worked with us know that we are capable of doing good things. Are we perfect? No, we make mistakes. I hold my entire team accountable.”

Ihler said one fix is a better salary. He proposed a 10 percent raise for new hires. That would turn out to be a $56,000 salary. In addition, Ihler would like a 2 percent raise for current hires based on merit level.

Residents News 4 spoke with outside the meeting say it feels like an obvious solution.

“It has struck a nerve. And I think something needs to be done. I think people want to see something done,” Bellefontaine Neighbors resident and former board member Barbara West said.

“Whatever they need,” resident Ceasar Vaughn shared. “Times are totally different now. You need someone to intervene when there is a problem. So if you don’t have that it’s going to be chaos out here. "

Ihler said the city has money but another funding source he believes could help is an internet sales tax. That means any online purchase within city limits would be taxed, and that money would go directly to the city. This is a common practice in many municipalities.

A proposal is in the works and will be presented at a general meeting for the city later this month.