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Isom expects "limited change" if department returns to local control

City Hall as seen from the headquarters of the St. Louis Police Department.
(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
City Hall as seen from the headquarters of the St. Louis Police Department.

The chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says not much would change if oversight of the department returns to City Hall for the first time in 150 years.

The city and the Police Officers' Association yesterday unveiled the outline of a compromise to accomplish that task. City leaders would gain control of the department once the current state-appointed police board and the association reach a collective bargaining agreement. Several votes - at the state and city levels - are needed before anything happens.

The department's mission won't change, chief Dan Isom said. And local control can only strengthen the relationship that currently exists between police headquarters and City Hall.

"On a day to day basis, we're responding to requests from the city to include the aldermen and women, city government, working with the mayor," Isom said. "Certainly there will be more interaction. But that's the point of local control."

Isom points to an arrangement among business owners, the transit agency Metro, and police departments in St. Louis and University City to crack down on unruly teens in the Delmar Loop. U-City and St. Louis officers saturated the Loop after a city officer was slightly injured while breaking up a large fight two weekends ago.

In perhaps another sign of that cooperative relationship, the Board of Police Commissioners today granted Mayor Francis Slay's request to have Capt. Sam Dotson - currently the police board's chief of staff - oversee almost every city department for the next two years as the city's operations chief.

Dotson's new position has been vacant since Ron Smith retired last March, and Mayor Slay said he was beginning to need help.

"Sam brings a lot to the table, we know him well, he's very experienced in administration, he knows city government very well, he of course is someone who's got a lot of experience in the police department, which is our largest department," Slay said.

The vote came without discussion, but the mayor says it took some time for everyone to understand what Dotson's new role would be.

Dotson will remain a sworn officer during his time at City Hall. He'llmake morethan he did as a captain.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.