Three outside candidates are among the six people vying to be the next chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Those six people introduced themselves to the public Thursday night at a public forum at Saint Louis University law school.
Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole
O’Toole, a 33-year veteran of the SLMPD, has been interim chief since April, when Sam Dotson retired suddenly on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s first day in office.
Prior to being named chief, O’Toole commanded the department’s Bureau of Community Policing. He had also led the city’s South and Central patrol divisions, as well the Mobile Reserve and SWAT units.
His presence on the list of final candidates angered members of the activist community in St. Louis, who have demanded his resignation. Under O’Toole’s watch, the department is facing a federal civil rights investigation for the way it handled protests after the verdict in the Jason Stockley case. A federal judge has already ordered the department to make significant changes to its policing tactics.
Capt. Mary Edwards-Fears
Edwards-Fears, the lone woman among the six finalists, currently commands the SLMPD’s Evidence Management and Auxiliary Services division. Though she now lives in Florissant, Edwards-Fears is a St. Louis native who lived in Pruitt-Igoe until she was 2.
“A person like me doesn’t generally get to try out for a position such as this,” she said. “But I am more than qualified to be your chief of police.”
Prior to being promoted, Edwards-Fears commanded the 5th District. She has been with the department since 1986.
Maj. John Hayden
Hayden, a 30-year veteran of the SLMPD, is the commander of the North Patrol Division. He has also served in a variety of other positions with the department, including as commander of the Internal Affairs Division.
“I’ve held a lot of officers accountable for misconduct. In some instances, they’ve even had to go to prison” Hayden said. “I’m no stranger to holding people accountable, and I hold myself accountable as well.”
Maj. Stephen Max Geron
Geron is a commander in the Dallas Police Department. He’s been with the department for 25 years. He wrote his master’s thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School on policing protests, which is a crucial issue in St. Louis.
“I have a love and respect for the Constitution and providing a safe environment for the public express their dissent with how government operates,” he said.
Geron also wrote about his experiences after a sniper shot and killed five Dallas-area police officers and wounded nine other people, including seven more officers. The violence occurred at a protest against police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Chief Keith Humphrey
Humphrey currently leads the Norman, Oklahoma Police Department, a department that is 83 percent white in a former sundown town, as he put it.
“I tell the stories. I’ve lived those stories. I understand what each and every one of you are saying, and I understand what each and every one of the law enforcement officers are saying,” he said. “We’ve got to make this work. I can help make this work.”
Earlier this year, Humphrey was a finalist for the chief’s job in Kansas City. He told TV station KSHB he believed he was not selected because he was an outsider.
Chief Patrick Melvin
“I think each officer here is an ambassador of the police department,” said Melvin, the chief of the Port Arthur, Texas Police Department. “Before you can go out and start doing the work, you’ve got to know what your mission is. And I need the community to tell me what your mission is.”
Melvin has been Port Arthur’s chief since 2016. His hiring there was controversial — he had resigned from his post with a small department in Arizona after being placed on administrative leave.
Earlier this year, officers in Port Arthur voted “no confidence” in Melvin’s leadership.
St. Louis public safety director Jimmie Edwards will hire the new chief, although Krewson will likely play a big role in making the decision.
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