St. Louis Finally Ending Civil-War-Era State Control of its Police Department


After 152 years, St. Louis regains control of its police department from the state of Missouri next week–a structure critics tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was often cumbersome, inefficient, and an impediment to political accountability. With local control comes lexibility to reduce the number of police districts, modify the number of commanders, streamline logistics, and fulfill the visions of a chief hired with the transition in mind. “It is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and look internally to make changes, which under state control, we couldn't,” said Chief Sam Dotson. He started Jan. 1, two months after Missouri voters endorsed the change. Mayor Francis Slay has been preparing for the moment when responsibility for crime control falls squarely at his feet, instead of being one vote on a five-member board. “Fighting crime is a team sport,” said Jeff Rainford, Slay's chief of staff. “For a very long time, the star of the team wasn't on our team.” Pro-South politicians devised the state control of police to thwart Union sympathizers in St. Louis in 1861, as the Civil War drew near. The change leaves Kansas City alone among large cities whose police are controlled by a state board.

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