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HomeNewsMajor blue city police force flees, staffing hits critical all-time low

Major blue city police force flees, staffing hits critical all-time low

Cops are fleeing a major city previously declared as the nation’s murder capital, with officer staffing hitting its lowest level on record, according to police data.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, like many law enforcement agencies across the country, has faced significant departures that it’s struggled to replace, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. The department is budgeted for 1,224 officers, but has over 300 vacancies, the data show.

“I’ve never heard of anything that low,” the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, Joe Steiger, told the Post-Dispatch. “When I started back in 1995, there were closer to 1,600 officers, and now they’re down under 1,000. That’s just crazy.”

The police department has dropped annually since 2020, according to SLMPD data. There were just over 1,200 commissioned employees at the start of that year, but dropped to 1,198 in January 2021, and finally to less than 1,130 last year, Fox News previously reported.

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More than a dozen former St. Louis police officers told the Post-Dispatch in August why they left the force, with explanations ranging from unmanageable workloads due to the staffing shortages to a lack of support from politicians. Of those, five retired, two switched to another police department and eight officers quit policing altogether, the local outlet reported

“This is a window of opportunity for them to try to fill in those gaps,” Steiger told the Post-Dispatch. “If they don’t fill those in, they’re going to have a big problem.”

To curb the staff shortage, SLMPD Chief Robert Tracy in October urged community members to help recruit officers. The department also started offering employees a $500 incentive if they refer someone who successfully completes the police academy.

St. Louis, in recent years, has been among the cities with the highest murder rate in the country. Among 70 cities that report homicide data to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, it was second only to New Orleans.

Crime, however, has decreased in St. Louis, despite the police staffing challenges. Homicides skyrocketed to 263 in 2020 and has surpassed 200 in the last two years, but decreased by 26% year-over-year as of the end of November, according to SLMPD data. Robberies dipped 7%, and aggravated assaults were down 10%, the data showed.

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Still, Steiger said staffing remains a top concern since low numbers could put civilians at risk and lead to officer burnout. In September 2023, for example, the department scrambled to find replacements after the only two St. Louis police officers assigned to a city district both called out sick, according to the Post-Dispatch

“If it just takes two or three people being off work to shut a district down, that’s a problem,” Steiger said. “It’s dangerous, not to mention the size of the districts comparative to when there were nine districts. They’re so much bigger now, to have two or three people covering them, it’s just not enough.”

SLMPD did not provide Fox News with a comment other than to note that its currently hiring.

​U.S. News Today on Fox News

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