St. Louis Metro Police stretched thin in third district neighborhoods following sick calls

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 6:14 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Several neighborhoods in the third district had little to no police on patrol Wednesday afternoon and evening due to short staffing and sick calls.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association told FirstAlert 4 that just two officers had been assigned to an evening shift.

Joe Steiger, the business manager for the union, said both officers called out with illnesses and that the police department covered the shifts with personnel from other districts and by calling in another officer on overtime.

“People are going to get sick. If you had more than two people assigned to a district it wouldn’t be an issue. But they didn’t,” Steiger said.

He called the situation dangerous for both the officers and the neighborhoods they were assigned to patrol. The third district encompasses several south city neighborhoods, including Dutchtown, Benton Park and Tower Grove East.

“There should never be a situation where two officers are signed to a district. That’s just not safe,” he said.

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not address specifics of the situation in the third district directly in a statement to FirstAlert4, but acknowledged ongoing staffing issues within the department.

“Similar to police departments across the country, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has been experiencing prolonged staffing shortages in both commissioned and civilian positions. These are not dissimilar to vacancies that have affected private and nonprofit organizations, as well as other government agencies, in recent months and years,” the statement read.

The statement also confirmed that officers from other districts were covering the sick calls, pointing out that even at higher staffing levels it’s common to see officers helping out other districts, and that the crime rates in the city have fallen, despite the staffing shortages.

“We have these options available in order to ensure, despite any staffing challenges we may face, that we are able to provide continuous and high-quality police services to the residents of St. Louis. Staffing challenges are unfortunately not new to our agency and the dedicated men and women who serve the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the City of St. Louis, both commissioned and non-commissioned employees, continue their hard work which has resulted in an overall reduction in crime this year compared to years prior,” the statement read.

Steiger acknowledged that recent pay increases and other incentives had helped with officer recruitment and retention. But he said the department was still short more than 270 officers.

“They need help. They need more people on the street,” he said.