North County municipal police chief scales back on show of force

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CHARLACK, MO (KTVI)-- One St. Louis County Municipal Police Chief is making big changes to his police force, in order to improve the relationship with citizens.

The small town of Charlack, with a population under 1,500 is surrounded by other small municipalities with their own police departments.  Charlack`s new Police Chief Steve Runge said he was immediately concerned with the look of his new department.  He said it was a police force he believed looked like unapproachable `ninjas,` until he made changes.

Chief Runge said, 'Anything that I thought the public would not receive as friendly, we got rid of.  We got rid of the black police cars.'  Runge said his small town police force even had a SWAT van, 'that went bye bye.'  He added, 'I think too much too much ninja attire does a disservice to law enforcement.'

Now Chief Runge is building up a different arsenal.  He showed us his desk of kid-friendly handouts, 'There`s a lot of things on my desk, but to me what every single thing on my desk represents is a smile on a kid`s face and a start to a good relationship between us and the children.'  He continued, 'Instead of a kid not making eye contact with us and walking away, they`re going to approach us.'

Runge said he`s only speaking for his department, because it serves such a small population.  He says the situation in Ferguson was more dangerous than many people could see through news reports.  He explained, 'We did take fire. I chewed pavement with a lot of County Police officers that day. I was out there 14 out of 18 days and it was crazy.'

In the video version of this report, you will look and listen to one small and frightening example, captured by `VICE news.`

In the clip, you can hear a St. Louis County Officer scream through his gas mask to reporters `is everybody ok!` then he leads them away from the gunfire.

Chief Runge said the show of police force, seen during the Crisis in Ferguson, was the appropriate response and that many officers wondered if they would even return home.  He added, 'I have an eight year old son that texted me about every 20 minutes while I was up there wanting to make sure I was OK.'

Runge said most of his personal interactions with people in Ferguson were positive and that`s what he`s trying to accomplish in his small town of Charlack, a community where everybody believes they`re `in it together.`

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