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Police Chief Dotson: Balancing Workload Prompted Reduction In Districts

(St. Louis Metropolitan Police)

Since 1962, the city of St. Louis has, by state law, had nine police districts.

Reducing that number has been a priority of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson since hetook the job last January.In April, voters turned control of the police department back to the city, giving Dotson the authority to make that change - one he said made based on the data.

Since 4:00 a.m. today, officers have been patrolling in six districts instead of nine.

Rachel Lippmann sat down with Dotson to discuss the new configuration of police districts.  Below are some excerpts from that interview

How much did you think about keeping neighborhoods together in a district?

When I would do public presentations on redistricting, the single comment I got back most frequently was, we like our neighborhoods and we want to keep them together. In a city with more than 70 neighborhoods, that's not always possible. Under the old, nine-district plan, nine neighborhoods were split. That's down to seven. Ultimately, data drove the decision. 

Additionally, there's some benefit to law enforcement to break district boundaries on major roads like Hampton, Gravois, Natural Bridge.

Will this make the police force looks more like the neighborhoods it patrols?

You're talking about diversity there. It's a big part of the police department. The city is 52 percent African-American, and the force is about 35 percent African-American. I tried to diversify the districts as much as possible with the pool of 850 officers available. 

As a side note, there's an academy class starting in February. Of the 30 or 31 cadets, about half are African-American.

See maps of all six districts, plus the calls-for-service and crime numbers the department used to make the decision to reconfigure police districts.

SLMPD Redistricting Proposal

Hear Chief Dotson explain what goes into downsizing a police department.
In this excerpt from the Jan. 21 St. Louis on the Air, aldermen Antonio French and Craig Schmid and UMSL professor Rick Rosenfeld discuss police resources, including redistricting.

  Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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