ST. LOUIS – St. Louis has hired a new police chief: Robert Tracy, 58, of Wilmington, Delaware. He is the first chief to be hired from outside the department, according to St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
Acting St. Louis Public Safety Director Dan Isom, who once served as the city’s police chief, said Tracy was the best candidate out of more than 40 who applied nationwide. The City of St. Louis’s Department of Personnel reviewed the applications under civil service rules and passed along the names to his department, Isom said.
Isom and the mayor made the final call on hiring Tracy, Isom said.
Tracy was introduced Wednesday during a news conference at St. Louis City Hall.
Mayor Jones said Tracy is known for showing up for Sunday services in churches other than his own.
She called him a “visible, accessible” chief, and a trusted partner in her effort to reimagine public safety with alternative police response programs that utilize mental health resources.
Tracy told reporters he had a history of addressing of the type of crime problems plaguing St. Louis, making the city known as one of America’s most dangerous, year after year. He said he supported crime prevention programs favored by the mayor.
He’s a native of The Bronx in New York City.
He said he’s helped cut crime everywhere he’s been: the NYPD, Chicago PD, and his most recent post, as chief of the Wilmington Police Department.
“I promise you, there will be a transparent plan that will be out there, but I have to get you and look under the hood to make sure that I see what’s going on and I know the issues that are here,” he said.
Tracy said he supports crime prevention programs favored by the mayor.
Though his city council in Delaware gave him a vote of “no confidence” 11 months ago over the issues of transparency and diversity in hiring, a clergy leader there told FOX 2 that St. Louis was getting a great new chief in Tracy.
“He would always show up,” said Bishop George Gibson II, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Action Council of Delaware. “He would always be front and center…we talked about the diversity of the police force; how we could bring black and brown personnel onto the police force so we could properly shift to community policing…for me, he was always boots on the ground. I tell the pastors, ‘You can’t be a shepherd and not smell like sheep.’ You have to be among the people. He was willing to be among the people.”
Tracy comes to a department that is shedding officers and responding to fewer calls. The St. Louis Police Officers Association reports the department is more than 200 officers short of its authorized strength, losing 13 every month, on average.
“Do I want more?” Tracy said. “Yes, I’d like to come up to budgeted strength. What police chief wouldn’t want that? So, come up to budgeted strength. If you set up an organization where they’re proud in what they’re doing and they believe in the mission and the community trust is there, it starts to be a groundswell of building up morale, which helps in the long run with recruiting more police officers.
“My wife and my family know that in my heart, I am and I always will be, a proud police officer.”
“I was encouraged to hear him talk about morale,” said Joe Steiger, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association. “I was also encouraged to hear him talk about wanting to speak to the unions and listening to the people who are actually on the street wanting to make a difference. Those are all good things for us.”
The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP), which is predominantly made up of minority officers, released the following statement:
“ESOP aspires to work diligently with the new chief toward making the agency equitable and fair for our officers and develop better community policing for all. We have long called for more transparency and input. That starts with our plans to meet with the new chief in the immediate future to discuss our priorities, concerns, and perspective. We will hold him to high standards as we have previous chiefs and do everything we can to work together and support progress.”
Tracy thanked Isom and Mayor Jones for their trust, saying, “I will not let you down and I will not let down the citizens of St. Louis.”
Tracy takes over as chief beginning Jan. 9, 2023. His annual salary will be $175,000.