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St. Louis City, County Police Merge Bomb And Arson Squads

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The bomb and arson units in St. Louis city and County are joining forces on July 1 - the latest merger between the two largest police departments in the region.

The 10 officers will still be employees of their own departments, but will now respond to calls throughout the region in two, eight-hour shifts. The arrangement, said St. Louis city police chief Sam Dotson, should almost eliminate overtime costs.

"Almost every other day, [St. Louis County chief Tim Fitch] has a call-out that costs his officers overtime," Dotson said. "About 40 percent of our calls require us to spend overtime. So by having 16 hours of coverage a day, and not just 8, we hope to almost eliminate that."

The merger should also reduce equipment costs, Dotson said. For example, a specially-equipped truck costs $600,000.

Fitch, the County's police chief, said the two departments are already cooperating in other areas, like helicopter support and patrols on MetroLink trains. The bomb and arson units, he said, were the next logical place to look.

"They have the same training, the same certifications," Fitch said. "It really makes no sense to continue to try and operate very expensive units independently and separately. I don’t want to go back to my police board and ask for more money to do the same thing."

Both chiefs said they are looking at mergers in other specialized areas like SWAT, but had no additional details or timelines.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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