The St. Louis Police Department will undergo an independent, outside review of its operations in an effort to improve community policing, protect civil rights and reduce violent crime, city officials said Wednesday.
The review was announced by Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Judge Jimmie Edwards, and Police Commissioner Chief John Hayden, in partnership with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
“This is about acknowledging that Black Lives Matter, and that in our City, far too many Black lives are lost to violence,” Krewson said in a statement. “It is about believing that community policing and the duty to intervene are essential, and that continued de-escalation, implicit bias, and racial equity training are critical.”
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced a similar review of the county police force on Monday, with comparable goals.
St. Louis often has one of the nation’s highest murder rates. The city and county also have been roiled by protests and violence, including during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Four police officers were shot and a retired St. Louis County police captain was killed while responding to looting at a pawn shop when protests turned violent earlier this month.
The region also saw weeks of violence when 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was Black, was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson in 2014, and again in 2017 when a white former St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, was acquitted in the death of a Black suspect.
The St. Louis city police also have been in a longstanding dispute with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Black woman, who has sued the city, police union and others, alleging that they are part of a coordinated and racist conspiracy to force her out of office.
The St. Louis city review, which is scheduled to start this month, will focus on cultural diagnosis, resource allocation, tools and technologies, crime control strategies and collaboration, the news release said.
“This is a valuable opportunity to bring on fresh ideas and new approaches that worked successfully in other cities and provide us with an analysis and recommendations to improve our departments and our community,” Krewson said.
Charles Ramsey, a Black retired Philadelphia and Washington D.C. police chief, will lead the review. He led a similar effort in Chicago in 2016 after controversy erupted when a video was released showing a white officer fatally shooting a Black man, Laquan McDonald. Ramsey was co-leader of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Ramsey and Daniel Oates, former police chief in Aurora, Colorado, and Miami Beach, Florida, will conduct the county review.
Both reviews are being funded by the Regional Business Council and member companies of Civic Progress, an organization of top executives from the region’s largest private sector employees.