St. Louis’ top cop talks state control, crime surge, recruiting

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ST. LOUIS – The top cop in St. Louis says the city needs to stay on course in an effort to reduce shootings after a violent January.

Crime was one of the various topics discussed during a rare one-on-one sit-down interview on Thursday with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Tracy.

The city has recorded 20 homicides so far in 2024, compared to 11 at this time last year. The chief said none of the homicides appeared to be random.

“We haven’t seen any connections between any of them. Some are interpersonal, some might be over narcotics, some might be over some (other) situations,” he said.

Tracy said that by utilizing ShotSpotter, a controversial gunshot detection system, officers can link different shooting incidents.

“Doing a link analysis, because that gun is with the same person doing several different shootings and when we pick him up, we can link that and actually bring that person up the street—god forbid—before they murder someone because that’s what’s going to happen,” Tracy said.

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From crime to recruiting, the department has 334 vacanices with 24 in the police academy right now. The recent raise is helping and officers are picking up extra shifts to recruit possible candidates at universities and conferences, according to Tracy.

“We saw Atlanta come in here, to our backyard and try to recruit—not successful. They got one person and they were here for two days. So you got to pick and choose where you’re going,” Tracy said.

Police officers recently received a raise, which allows Tracy’s department to compete with other nearby agencies.

The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association said it believes the department is too heavy with supervisors, while there are not enough officers on the street, but Tracy disagrees.

“In all the places I’ve been in, I believe it’s the right size, from my experience. Being at the NYPD, being in Chicago, and also being at a smaller department in Wilmington, Delaware. I think it’s necessary,” Tracy said.

In the last year, Tracy turned one lieutenant colonel into a Crime Control Strategist, a similar role that Tracy played in Chicago.

He also created a civilian chief of staff position. He said the civilian is a former police sergeant, who he says has experience in policing, budgets and grant writing.

“With a police department like this, and I’m trying to get a lot of things done, she’s also a force multiplier to educate people on what the expectation from the chief is—because she’s gone through it,” Tracy said.

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About a week ago, the top cop testified in Jefferson City against a bill that would appoint a Board of Police Commissioners. Tracy said he only knows local control and wouldn’t change his strategies, but if the legislation passes, he’d want to stay.

“If that time comes, if I’m doing my job well enough and they feel I am the person that’s right for the job and they choose me, I would stay,” Tracy said. “This place is a great city. This is a great police department.”

Tracy said he’s committed to St. Louis, regardless.

“I sold my house on the east coast. I bought a house, I live in the city and my wife says she loves St. Louis and she wants to call this home the rest of our lives and so do I,” he said.


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