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As St. Louis weighs ‘reimagining public safety,’ new report offers a road map

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department squad cars sit at central patrol on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department squad cars sit at central patrol last October in St. Louis.

As St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones talks about reimagining public safety, a new report from the Center for Policing Equity provides suggestions for working within existing public safety systems.

It addresses improving public safety in St. Louis — in part by pulling back on policing.

“When we talk about reimagining public safety, really the core of it is, what is it that we have expected policing to do? The answer to that question is that that has resulted in a system of punishment for people asking for help or otherwise needing help,” report co-author Hans Menos explained on St. Louis on the Air. “What is needed now, when we talk about reimagining, is building that system of care.”

Menos, vice president of the Triage Response Team at the Center for Policing Equity, discussed his organization’s 110-page report, which explores such topics as after-school programming for St. Louis youth and increasing accountability for St. Louis police officers.

It recommends that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department end the use of vehicle stops for low-level violations, update its policy on interactions with those experiencing mental health emergencies and correct staffing inequities among its six patrol districts.

The report states that officers assigned to shifts in the north part of St. Louis have the highest workloads.

Hans Menos joins St. Louis on the Air

“Based on time of day, based on shift and based on geography … there's a bit of a flat staffing when there is a clear difference in demand,” Menos said.

If more officers are assigned to the districts with the highest need, he added, the city can make sure residents are “getting the level of service they're asking for — that they're not, in some cases, not getting a response at all, or waiting in an unacceptable amount of time to get that response.”

Menos said the Center for Policing Equity plans to work with the city on its public safety initiatives and will continue to solicit community member input.

“The mayor has a vision that is very aligned with this,” Menos said. “Our goal is to support her vision, Dr. Isom's vision and many of the people on the ground in St. Louis that are asking for this type of change.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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