Concern is growing among St. Louis police leaders as resignations in the city’s police department continue to mount.
According to the St. Louis Police Pension Board, 819 officers have left the department since 2017. Between 2017 and 2019, the department averaged a loss of 119 officers each year. In 2020, 129 officers resigned, with an additional 174 officers leaving the force this year.
The resignations have left the department understaffed, with 1,035 commissioned employees, per Fox News Digital.
“We’re reaching critical mass,” St. Louis Police Officers Association President Jay Schroeder said of the staffing problems in early October.
Data from the police department indicates that employee numbers have dwindled each year since 2020. There were 1,205 officers on the force in 2020. By January 2021, that number decreased to 1,198. In January of this year, the number fell to 1,128.
According to an email from Interim Police Chief Michael Sack, the department has 811 police officers and detectives on duty as of October 3, which is nearly a 100 fewer than in October 2021.
“This puts a burden on us to perform our duties with fewer officers,” Sack wrote. “We must pay attention to staffing in the line platoons and on squads. No squad should have fewer than five officers with the optimum number being seven officers. I wish I could give you more, but this is the reality.”
Sack added that he was working to transfer more officers to patrol duty to make up for the thinning ranks.
“I am working hard to find ways to put more officers on the line platoons. These officers and sergeants provide a great service to our community and they need the support of all of us to help them do their jobs effectively and safely,” Sack stated in his email.
News station KSDK reported that in St. Louis P.D. headquarters, a pile of discarded uniforms from departing officers, known as “Mount Exodus,” had grown to over 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a proponent of reallocating funds from the police department to anti-violence programs, was not as concerned about the apparent crisis as others, despite the fact that St. Louis had the highest murder rate in the country in 2021.
Jones referred to a 2020 study that showed that the department had more officers per capita than other similarly sized cities.
St. Louis Public Safety Director Dan Isom said it wasn’t the number of officers that was the problem. “We have enough officers, we need to do a better job of retaining and recruiting them,” Isom said.
St. Louis is just one major city facing police staffing shortages over the past several years. Chicago, for example, reported the lowest staff number in its history in March of this year. Seattle and Philadelphia police also reported historic lows.
“We see law enforcement officers leave our profession at a rate we’ve never seen before,” National Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes said in August. “Our profession is dependent on the best and brightest stepping up and taking this job. And because of the actions, and because of the turmoil that has happened in the last two years, we have a crisis right now in manpower.”