St. Louis police union says the officer shortage is worse than ever

Union wants higher pay to attract new hires.

Kevin Killeen
February 26, 2020 - 6:00 pm

ST. LOUIS--(KMOX)--The shortage of police officers in St. Louis city may be worse than has been reported, according to a union representing city officers. 

The St. Louis Police Officers Association says on paper the department is short 152 officers, but in reality that means 169 fewer officers on the streets because in-house vacancies are filled by pulling officers off the streets. 

"The streets are feeling all the effects of the losses," said union President Jay Schroeder said, "So, it's not like--ok, so we lost a guy in the 4th district--let's move a guy from another unit that's not street related. So, every time there's a loss, you're pulling more an more people out of the district."

Related: St. Louis Police Department Falls 140 Officers Short

Schroeder says another 50 officers can't work the streets because they're on the injured list.

That means more than 200 officers who could be on the streets aren't there. 

As a result, he says fewer patrol cars are out, giving would-be criminals the impression that the police aren't around 

Response times are also longer, Schroeder says. Some calls such as car break-ins can take an hour for police to respond, he says.

The union supports plans before lawmakers in Jefferson City to do away with the residency rule. Schroeder says some prospective hires don't want to live in the city because they don't want to send their kids to city public schools. 

But residency isn't the only issue, or even the main issue, Schroeder says.

"We're losing pay. We're falling further behind in pay.  We are probably ten-or-twelve thousand dollars behind the county now," Schroeder said, "I think that's a huge part of it."

Three years ago, city officers received a $6,000 annual pay raise.  But Schroeder says the chronic problem of vacancies--hovering between 130-to-150 officers--shows pay isn't high enough.

KMOX reached out to Police Chief John Hayden for reaction.  He was not immediately available for comment. 

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