A shortfall of available officers to tackle various patrol and office positions prompts the St. Louis police union to request higher pay. They seek to attract new recruits and ease the workload, some of which goes neglected as a result of the police shortage.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association states the shortfall comes to a total of 169 officers. While technically the difference amounts to a smaller number, 152, they explain office vacancies pull officers off street duty, resulting in the larger figure.
Jay Schroeder, president of the union, expressed dismay at the police shortage. “The streets are feeling all the effects of the losses,” he said.
He also suggested an additional 50 officers that could be patrolling streets aren’t due to injuries.
His concerns focus on the perception of law and order within St. Louis. Fewer patrols, he believes, impresses upon would-be criminals they’re less likely to face arrest.
Response times also expand. For example, Schroeder offered car break-ins taking an hour for police to arrive.
Efforts to boost academy enrollment include removing a residency requirement for police officers. The union supports lawmakers’ efforts in Jefferson City to permit law enforcement officers to live outside the city, yet work within it.
However, focus remains on pay. Schroeder compared their pay to that of the county, falling 10 to 12 thousand dollars below.
Police Shortage As Department Faces Criticism
St. Louis police also face an image problem after some high profile incidents tarnished their reputation. In a particularly troubling incident from 2017, a group of cops beat an undercover officer masquerading as a protester to investigate potential property destruction. The ensuing investigation uncovered text messages exchanged between the officers from the previous night communicating excitement at the prospect of beating up protesters.
They staffed the Civil Disobedience Team, established in the wake of protests that erupted across the city. They followed the acquittal of a police offer that shot and killed a Black driver after a chase during which dashcam recorded him saying “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.”
The police shortage problem adds to an ongoing crisis for the department.