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Slay Seeks Funding For 160 New Police Officers In St. Louis

Sam Dotson and officers listen to James Clark before a hotspot patrol in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay wants to put an additional 160 officers on the streets of the city over the next two years.  

"This is basically patrolling neighborhoods," Slay said in an interview. "This is more cops on the streets. We're not talking about administrative positions; we're not talking about other things that wouldn't have a direct impact on neighborhoods."

Slay said the additional manpower is needed to combat an increase in crime that started in August, after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Even though crime remains down overall in the city compared to last year, it was up more than 14 percent in October 2014 compared to a year ago.  Numbers for November are yet available.

Slay doesn't think the timing of the increased crime is a coincidence.

"Criminals are more emboldened," the mayor said. "There's a higher level of tensions and a higher level of emotion."

He also said it's also possible that police are being more cautious in how they approach people because of heightened scrutiny.

The mayor said he'd like to find the money to start adding officers in the budget that will take effect on July 1, 2015. It will cost the city an additional $8 million a year to hire 160 additional police officers -- money the city doesn't currently have.

"We're going to have to make some hard decisions about how we get there, but I think it's necessary," Slay said. "Maybe it's some kind of tax increase, or efficiencies of some regard. Some grant money, maybe from the federal government or state government."

City officials are also looking for the funds to cover the city's response to Brown's death and the unrest and protests that followed. Slay said the police department alone is more than $2 million over budget.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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