ST. LOUIS – There are mounting concerns about the number of officers leaving the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. A look at the numbers shows why calls to “defund the police” may soon be a thing of the past.
The current authorized force of the department is about 1,400 officers, according to the St. Louis Police Officers Association. The way things are trending right now, there may be about half that number in five years. The department is already short more than 300 officers and crime is surging.
Photos show a pile of police uniforms turned in by officers who’ve recently left the department rising from the floor and nearly reaching the ceiling at a police storage facility. That pile won’t be shrinking any time soon.
“We’re at 112 (officers) so far this year we’ve lost,” said Jay Schroeder, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. “We lost 180 policemen last year. We’re basically losing one platoon a month: 13 policemen a month on average this year. Those are numbers you just can’t keep up.”
Police are noticing that criminals are more emboldened than ever, with fewer patrols and a dwindling police presence across the City of St. Louis. With Mayor Tishaura Jones not yet budging from her defunding policy, long-time St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green has dropped a bombshell call for change.
“I really wanted to be a voice to add to helping to reduce the crime in our city,” Green told the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.
The board is the city’s top decision-making body, comprised of the mayor, comptroller, and board of aldermen president.
“Our residents are up in arms about the increase in some of the neighborhoods. Our downtown areas are not safe,” Green said.
Schroeder, who works as a downtown officer, noted problems there were acute. Car break-ins, street racing, and gunfire have become a weekly “norm”.
“The Cardinals are going to be making the playoffs this year,” Schroeder said. “That’s going to eat up a lot of resources. We don’t just have the resources all the time. You’re going to need to do something to get more policemen for that. We have soccer starting (in 2023).”
Green wants an increased police presence in the downtown sports district and in neighborhoods city-wide. She knows pay must increase dramatically.
One of those throwing his uniform on the pile is getting a 68% raise with a department in the Illinois suburbs, going from a salary of $53,000 to $89,000.
“(This) also is a note to the intent of the City of St. Louis to vigorously compete for police officers within the St. Louis region,” Green said.
“It’s a step in the right direction. I applaud her for doing that and coming out in a time when it’s not that popular,” Schroeder said.
The city and the department are currently trying to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
The last one has expired for about two years, Schroeder said.
Though Green’s plan is currently just an outline, it marks a shift away from defunding police.