‘Self-initiated activity to a minimum’ Internal police memo tells officer to limit proactive policing

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A memo First Alert 4 obtained Thursday shows St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers were told to minimize “self-initiated” activity.

This means police were told to limit proactive patrols and contact with the general public while out on patrol.

This comes during an ongoing 911 dispatcher shortage, and police were also told to limit how much they contact emergency personnel.

Residents Thursday seemed a bit concerned to hear this has been ongoing.

“Hearing that potentially we might not have as many police looking out for the residents, it doesn’t make you feel as safe as you should feel,” said Tyra Wooten, a city resident.

Wooten said she and others get a sense of peace when police are around in her Central West End Neighborhood.

And once she learned that police may not respond to something suspicious they see while patrolling; she may now think twice about her trips outside.

“I think it might make them kind of think twice whether they want to come out and enjoy Forest Park after a certain time,” said Wooten.

According to police union lobbyist Jane Dueker this memo was sent out August 5.

The memo told officers, “If you can keep self-initiated activity to a minimum, that would be appreciated.”

It also shows that the six police districts in the city were combined into three districts.

“We will have three districts patched together” for the afternoon and evening hours, according to the internal correspondence.

A spokesperson for St. Louis Metropolitan Police says these orders were not from any commander with any actual authority.

“These were simply notifications from a communications supervisor related to staffing within the communications division during particular shifts,” said police in a statement.

In that statement, they did not say whether the police followed this directive or not.

Police did cite challenges with 911, in which the city has struggled to hire and retain 911 dispatchers.

The issue was highlighted in July when 33-year-old Katherine Coen was stuck in her car after a tree fell on it, despite 911 calls for nearly an hour. First responders didn’t make it in time, and she died in her car.

A former 911 dispatcher told us in August there just isn’t enough staff.

“Of course, you can’t get answered. You can’t get answered if you don’t have people there to answer the phone,” said Maureen Ramsey

Police said they’ve streamlined hiring for 911, and more people are coming. They said they’re being trained right now.

First Alert 4 did reach out to nearly every aldermen on the public safety committee. Several were unaware this was happening.

None of them were available for an interview.