ST. LOUIS – Police departments from a growing number of American cities and metros are dealing with staffing shortages. The issue is no different for officers who serve the City of St. Louis.

According to new numbers compiled by FOX 2’s Mitch McCoy, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is currently around 20% understaffed.

At full strength, the department would employ 1,224 commissioned officers. SLMPD is currently down 254 officers, staffing less than 1,000 officers as of Thursday.

In 2021, SLMPD reported its force was short nearly 150 officers. Compared to the latest figures, the shortages have increased by roughly 84% from just two years ago.

For the last several months, the department has been led police chief Robert Tracy, the first chief hired from outside the ranks of SLMPD. Taking over a short-handed department, Tracy began a staffing analysis before he officially started on the job.

Tracy, when meeting with the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in January, also stressed the need for cooperative working relationships with all law enforcement partners and to develop a more community-oriented approach to fighting crime.

Amid the staffing shortages, some lawmakers are calling for change within St. Louis’ policing system. SLMPD has operated under the control of the mayor’s office for nearly a decade after approval from voters in 2012. For more than 150 years before that, the agency operated under a police board rather than local control.

With the end of Missouri’s legislative session is drawing closer, it seems some lawmakers are still pressing hard for St. Louis City to return to its previous system. One bill from St. Louis County-based lawmaker, Rep. Brad Christ (R-Sunset Hills), has cleared the Missouri House and remains up for review in the Senate.

Jones called the GOP-backed efforts “a slap in the face” in a one-on-one conversation with FOX 2’s Emily Manley several months ago. She reiterated similar views last month in her State of the City address, calling the possibility of state control in policing “a hot mess.”

The Missouri Legislative Session, and the opportunity for lawmakers to approve this legislation, ends on Friday.

Despite that push, the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Police Officers Association recently agreed to a new union contract to enable pay raises for SLMPD officers. A spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office tells FOX 2 there is a clause within that contract that means it would dissolve in any case the state takes over.