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Government, Politics & Issues

Mayor Jones wants to scrap St. Louis' current police chief search and start over

St. Louis Mayor-elect Tishaura Jones addresses the media in April 2021 inside City Hall with new appointees, retired police sergeant Heather Taylor (left) named senior advisor to the director of public safety, Dan Isom (center) named interim public safety director and the new Treasurer Adam Layne.
Wiley Price
/
St. Louis American
St. Louis Mayor-elect Tishaura Jones addresses the media on April 2021 inside City Hall with new appointees, retired police sergeant Heather Taylor (left) named senior advisor to the director of public safety, Dan Isom (center) named interim public safety director and the new Treasurer Adam Layne.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones confirmed Tuesday she wants to scrap the current search for the city’s new police chief after facing difficulties created by a former city leader.

Rick Frank, who stepped down as the city’s independent personnel department in December, determined police chief finalists would be chosen solely by his department. This broke from how current Police Chief John Hayden was chosen under Mayor Lyda Krewson and Frank, who hired an outside consultant to find and pick the finalists.

“I only had two white male candidates to choose from and St. Louis is more diverse than white males, our police department is more diverse—there were a lot of diverse candidates within the police department who were kicked out of the first round so I want to start over to find the right candidate,” Jones said.

Sources in Jones’ administration told The St. Louis American last month the personnel department rejected the majority of 30 people nationwide who applied for the position and administered a written test to only two internal candidates, who are both white, but did not administer a virtual version of the test to the other four out-of-state candidates.

“There were flaws in the current process and we promised the community an open and transparent process, and this is not that,” Jones said.

The mayor said she wants to start over completely after finding an interim personnel director but did not provide additional details.

Hayden announced his retirement in September after serving approximately four years as chief. He will step down Feb. 23, the day marking his 35th anniversary with the department.

Hayden was met with a host of challenges as chief, including a record-breaking homicide rate in 2020, the pandemic and several high-profile incidents including three white police officers charged with beating a handcuffed Black detective, Luther Hall; the death of officer Katlyn Alix who was shot and killed by fellow officer Nathaniel Hendren while he was on duty in January 2019; and local protests in summer 2020 over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

His announcement came less than two weeks after St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton resignedafter 16 months of addressing allegations of a racist culture within the agency.

Jones has expressed her willingness to collaborate with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page as both leaders search for new law enforcement heads.

Dana Rieck is a reporter for the St. Louis American, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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