Crime, Budget And Restructuring - A Busy Day For St. Louis Police Commissioners
It was a crowded agenda for the five members of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners today. Here's a recap of some of the main agenda items:
B0th police chief Sam Dotson and Mayor Francis Slay are downplaying a jump in the crime numbers in January.
The report released today shows total crime was up 23 percent last month compared to January 2012. There were 11 murders last January, and 15 this year.
While any increase is bad news, Dotson said, the numbers are still historically low.
"January of 2013 was the second-lowest January we had in recent history, compared only to January of 2012," he said. "There were 1,439 fewer crimes this January than there were going back to 2006."
Dotson says targeted patrols in the north city neighborhood of College Hill and other department initiatives are already driving down February's crime numbers.
It didn't take long for supporters of Lewis Reed, Slay's opponent on March 5, to jump on the numbers.
Preliminary numbers show pension costs for next fiscal year are outpacing the additional revenue the department is expected to get - about a $6 million cost increase versus $5 million in additional dollars.
Dotson says it's still early in the process, but he'll be doing everything he can to keep the current contingent of 1,265 officers on the street. He's also hoping for about $1.2 million to upgrade the department's service weapons.
Dotson said the department will begin by looking for "savings or monies that we didn't spend this year."
"Ideally, to be able to carry over, to prepay expenses, is a good place to start," he said. "And looking at things like replacement of cars, maybe they're funded by grants."
Trustees for the department's pension systems are working on legislation that would change retirement benefits going forward.
The commissioners today approved several changes to the department's organizational structure.
Dotson received permission to dismantle a specialized force known as the Rapid Deployment Unit and reassign its 28 officers to three of the city's nine police districts.
"I want hotspot policing to be the way that we do business, and not a special project or a special program," he said. "So it's really putting the resources under control of the captains, and giving them the ability and flexibility to focus on crimes in progress, drug sales, and suspicious activity."
The changes will be evaluated after six months. Dotson says if they are implemented city-wide, he'll then push forward with his plans to reduce the number of patrol districts to six.
The chief will also consolidate six gang detectives currently stationed across the city at the department's headquarters, making it easier to share intelligence. And he's also moving all units that do daily enforcement work under the Bureau of Community Policing, which oversees most of the patrol officers.
The move to the new headquarters at 1915 Olive is set for February 2014 - almost a year behind schedule.
Bids for the $5.7 million project are due March 5, and construction should begin in May. So far, crews have already put new roofs on the main building as well as the structure housing the generator, and done a test of the emergency generator.
The department is funding the project using asset forfeiture money, city bonds, and donations. They will also have to build an 11,000 sq. ft. addition to an auxiliary building that will house the property custody division.
Also today, the Board:
- Accepted an initial $100,00 donation from Pinnacle Entertainment for patrols near the Lumiere Casino. The donation will eventually total $500,000
- Accepted $10,000 from Doug Albrecht, the chairman of the Bodley Group, to help fund a gun buyback program. The department hopes to raise $50,000.
- Continued a memorandum of understanding with Forest Park Forever, under which the non-profit will pay about $24,000 annually until June 30, 2018 for mounted police patrols in Forest Park
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann