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St. Louis County Police Tout Success Of Partnership With City Pushed By Consulting Firm

The St. Louis County Police Department says a partnership that was quietly started between its officers and the St. Louis Police Department helped reduce crime in both Jennings and the nearby Walnut Park West neighborhood.

The two departments began an extensive partnership last year at the suggestion of the Teneo Group, which was at the time evaluating the two departments. St. Louis County was looking for ways to reduce aggravated assaults in the area, and Walnut Park West is a city hotspot for violent crime.

A memo obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed the depth of the cooperation, including coordinating radios and license plate readers. But many leaders found out about it in an article about that memo.

“I felt pretty good about moving into that project, and it went sideways pretty quickly,” Capt. Jason Law, commander of the Jennings precinct, told the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday. “A lot of that was because we weren’t necessarily on top of all the stakeholders in the way that we needed to be.”

Relationships eventually improved, Law said, and the program was a success. In the Jennings precinct, shootings were down 51% in the 120 days after the initiative started compared to the 120 before, and crime overall was down 33% in that same time period. In Walnut Park West, shootings were down 14% between September 2020 and December 2020.

Law said the department will use the lessons it learned from the Jennings initiative as it rolls out other recommendations in the Teneo report.

“Community engagement is going to become just as important as what our research analysts pull together, our crime stats, where we target our efforts,” he said. “I think it’s important that the board understands that’s our focus moving forward.

County Police Chief Mary Barton said the department will take the recommendations in the Teneo report, as well as one released Tuesday by the Center for Policing Equity, and roll them into the department’s strategic plan, which was developed in 2018.

“We saw overarching themes in a lot of the reports and audits we had done, specifically on diversity and equity among our employees, consistent minority hiring and increasing community engagement,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously for a second professional services contract with Teneo, the cost of which will be covered by the Regional Business Council. Details about the contract, including what services Teneo would be providing, were not immediately available.

Center for Policing Equity report

The report by the Los Angeles-based research group looked at whether certain groups of residents, especially Black people, were targeted more by the county’s police than others. Its review of traffic stop data found that while disparities between Black and white drivers decreased between 2016 and 2018, Black drivers were still more likely to be stopped per capita than drivers of all other groups. Black individuals were also three times as likely to have force used against them than other groups.

The center recommended the department begin collecting data about pedestrian stops as well as traffic stops, and to clarify when officers must report use of force.

This is the second center report put together for the department. Funding came from a number of outside sources, including the National Science Foundation.

Vehicle pursuits increase

St. Louis County police officials say better information about suspects in crimes is leading to an uptick in the number of car chases.

The department was involved in 11 chases during the first two months of 2021, compared to three in the same time last year — an increase of 265%. Accidents involving department vehicles were also up, but not nearly as much.

“Our Real Time Crime Center has been putting out a lot of data, and it’s allowing officers to be at the scenes of felonies more quickly,” said Lt. Steve Hampton, commander of the department’s research bureau. “And I think they’re probably getting in a few more pursuits due to that reason because they’re basically coming to the area so much quicker and jumping on the suspects that are fleeing the area.”

Hampton said the Bureau of Professional Standards reviews all chases to make sure officers followed department policy. Earlier this year, a suspect fleeing St. Louis County policecaused a fatal crash in north county.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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