Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Mistake to Share Police Services?

Credit (Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Earlier this week, St. Louis (City) Police Chief Sam Dotson and I announced a new partnership.  We’ll combine our Bomb & Arson Units on July 1.  I’ll have to admit that I was surprised at the number of angry phone calls, comments and email I received after the media reported the agreement.  St. Louis County is “going down the tubes” according to one caller.  “We are taking money from the county and subsidizing the city” said another.  "This is just another example of the county's decline" wrote a South County resident.  A few politicians (and some who think they're politicians) also questioned my decision.

For those reading from outside of the St. Louis area, county police headquarters is about 8 miles from city police headquarters.  Each jurisdiction has always had separate Bomb & Arson functions.  We have identical equipment; most of it purchased since September 11, 2001 with federal funds.  Everything related to this unit is expensive.  One example is the bomb containment vessel, which costs more than $600,000.  We each have one.  We have bomb robots and bomb suits.  So does the city.  Someday, we will have to replace all of it.  It’s pretty clear that federal money won’t be available in the future.
Training for these specialized detectives is expensive.  Our training and certifications are identical to theirs.  We have four detectives and a sergeant and the city has four detectives and a sergeant.  Each department spends tens of thousands of dollars in overtime covering the time periods when no detective is on-duty.  With a combined unit, Bomb & Arson detectives will coordinate their schedules to cover more of the day with on-duty personnel, saving each agency overtime dollars. 

If you find a pipe bomb in your mailbox, do you care what the police patch says on the responding detective’s shoulder? The agreement sounds like a no-brainer right?  I thought so; but that was my mistake.  I guess what I forgot to do was to inject politics and fear into my decision.  Sorry about that.

6 comments:

  1. The result of two groups working together makes sense when the City and County both have well-trained staffs. In my opinion the the people in the metro area is the winner.

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  2. The second to last sentence sounds to me like a Chief who knows his time has come.

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  3. As "Really old ex-cop" on CopTalk, I've been saying for a long time that consolidation of services is the only sane way to go. I know everyone wants to hold onto their little piece of turf, but the big picture says that St. Louis is the hub of the metropolitan area and the county, the ever expanding "wheel"...logically, one will always need the other

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  4. Chief:

    Don't be "sorry" for anything. Keep moving the County Police forward.

    Ken Dye

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  5. john schmiemeierJuly 17, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    I see this as a cost savings move in some of the areas. My only concer would be county officers working city cases after the initial investigation. My wifes grandfather was an officer killed in the line of duty in 1954 ( ray hacker) I know a ton of City police officers. when they had the likes of Detective Mike Venker and such it was and is a great dept. I think the outcry is that the county will be giving services that the city should be paying for. Thats not the case with this move. I support this one 100%. However Please make sure tthat you put any other combined service proposouls on this Blog and community meetings in the future. as some may not be as agreeable as this one is.

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