Public Safety Director ‘without a doubt’ has faith in jail commissioner

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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis official charged with public safety defended the city’s jail and the person leading the facility during a committee meeting.

St. Louis Department of Public Safety Director Charles Coyle admits drugs are getting smuggled into the City Justice Center.

“Whether it’s from a staff member, whether it’s from a third-party contractor, whether it’s from an attorney, whether it’s from somebody coming in to visit the detainee, however it’s getting in, it’s getting in,” Coyle said.

Coyle took dozens of questions for about an hour from the city’s Public Safety Committee while each alderman expressed concern about drugs getting into the facility and the number of deaths and suspected overdoses.

Coyle said NARCAN, a nasal spray that can reverse a drug overdose, has been used 117 times this year. The director said that number is subjective and doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an overdose.

“If the person goes to the hospital and survives, it is their choice whether a toxicology report is done or not. So, the patient can literally say no to that,” Coyle said.

The City of St. Louis announced last month that it would start tracking overdoses beyond each time NARCAN is used, after a FOX Files investigation uncovered the city had not been keeping the data.

Coyle told the aldermen that it may help if an ordinance is created that would require a toxicology test to help with better tracking, which is required in some other jails across the metro, according to the city leader.

The director said the CJC now has a full body scanner to try and stop drugs at the front door, with the hope of getting three more soon.

Since 2020, Coyle said there’ve been 15 deaths at the facility.

“Four of those deaths could be seen as accidental or an overdose,” Coyle said.

There are more than 100 vacancies at the jail.

Coyle said a $3,500 sign-on bonus is being offered, and a part-time employee has been hired to help with recruiting, but incidents at the jail, which are reported in the media, don’t go over well with potential candidates.

“When some of the news media hits, they change their mind. We have been impacted by the news reporting,” Coyle said.

Coyle said without doubt that he still has full faith in Correctional Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah.


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