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Byers' Beat: The pool of internal candidates eligible for St. Louis Police Chief job

Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and at least 10 years of experience as a captain or above

ST. LOUIS — The qualifications to become the next Chief of Police in St. Louis are out – and the pool of internal candidates who meet them is small.

The city’s next chief must have at least 10 years of experience at the rank of captain or above and a bachelor’s degree.

Reading through the biographies of the top brass in the St. Louis Police Department, a small, but diverse group of only four have both.

But the search is national.

And so far, eight people have applied for the position – only one of them is an internal candidate, according to the Department of Personnel.

Citing the city’s privacy ordinance, Director Richard Frank said he could not tell me where the applicants were from and whether the one internal candidate is among the four who qualify for the job.

Here is a snapshot of the internal candidates who could apply to become the city’s next top cop when Chief John Hayden’s retirement takes effect in late February.

Lt. Col. Michael Sack

Years of service: 27

Experience: As an officer, he worked in the Fourth District, the Central Patrol Detective Bureau, and the Special Services Division. Promoted to lieutenant in 2007 and was assigned to Seventh District. Promoted to Captain in 2008 and served as the Commander of Crimes Against Persons. Promoted to Major in 2015 and served as the Commander of the Central Patrol Division and the Bureau of Professional Standards. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2019 and serves as the Commander of Professional Standards.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Communications/Arts from Cardinal Glennon College, two master’s degrees; one in divinity from Kenrick Seminary and one in Business and Organization Security Management. Graduated from the FBI Academy in 2014.

Other information: Served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Reserves. Before joining the department, served four years as a Catholic priest.

Lt. Col. Rochelle Jones

Years of service: 38

Experience: Served as an officer for first eight years of her career. Promoted to sergeant in 1991, serving in the Seventh District, Internal Affairs Division, and the Canine/Mobile Reserve Unit. Promoted to lieutenant in 2001, making her the first woman in the department’s history to serve as the commander of the Homicide Division. She also served in the Fifth and Sixth Districts. Promoted to captain in 2006 and served as the Special Projects Director for the Inspector of Police, Commander of the Eighth District and became the department’s first-ever Patrol Executive Officer overseeing the three area stations. Promoted to major in 2013 and served as the Night Chief, the Commander of Support Operations Division and Deputy Commander of the Bureau of Operations. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2017 and served as commander of the Bureau of Professional Standards, Deputy Chief of Central Patrol and now serves as Deputy Chief over the Bureau of Specialized Enforcement.

Education: Master of Arts degree from Webster University in Leadership and Management and Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University in the Management of Criminal Justice Systems.

Other experience: Selected for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives’ two-year Chief Executive Mentoring Program at Cedarville University for aspiring chiefs of police. Graduate of the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute for Police, a study in executive strategic management. Graduate of Leadership St. Louis through FOCUS, a local nonprofit.

Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole

Years of service: 37

Experience: As an officer, he worked in the Ninth District and Intelligence Unit. Promoted to sergeant in 1991, serving in the Third and Ninth Districts and worked for the Board of Police Commissioners. Promoted to lieutenant in 1995 and served in the Third and Fifth Districts, as well as commanded the Mobile Reserve Unit and SWAT team. Promoted to Captain in 2000 oversaw the Fourth District. Promoted to major in 2003, and commanded the South Patrol Division and Central Patrol Division and served as Deputy Commander of the Bureau of Community Policing. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2012 and has commanded the Bureau of Community Policing and the Bureau of Professional Standards. Promoted to Assistant Chief of Police in 2015. In 2017, appointed Acting Police Commissioner during police chief search. O'Toole is currently the assistant chief.

Education: Master of Business Administration from Lindenwood University and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Southeast Missouri State University. Graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Other information: Served as the President of the FBI National Academy Associates for the Eastern District of Missouri, attended the Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, and the Executive Leaders Program sponsored by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA. In 2016, O'Toole completed the FBI’s National Executive Institute and the Anti-Defamation League's Advanced Training School on extremist and terrorist threats.

Lt. Col. Mary Warnecke

Years of service: 38

Experience: Promoted to sergeant in 1993 and supervised the Child Abuse Unit. Promoted to lieutenant in 1997 and served as a district lieutenant, Commander the Sex Crimes/Family Violence Unit and Director of the Police Academy. Promoted to captain in 2003 and commanded multiple districts and the Special Operations Division. Promoted to major in 2017 and oversaw the Bureau of Investigative Services, which includes the Homicide, the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit, Sex Crimes, Child Abuse, Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), and Cyber Crimes. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2020 and she currently serves as the Commander of the Bureau of Community Policing.

Education: Associate’s degree in Criminal Investigations from Florissant Valley Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Webster University. FOCUS Graduate of Leadership St. Louis.

Other information: Developed the department’s first Family Violence Unit, Crisis Intervention Team, Officer Wellness Unit and co-founded the St. Louis Family Violence Council. She served on the Board of the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad and on the Board for the Women’s Safe House.

Public histories

St. Louis has never had a chief from outside its own ranks, so the internal candidates already have history on their side.

Jones and O’Toole applied for the position following the abrupt retirement of former Chief Sam Dotson on former Mayor Lyda Krewson’s first day in office in 2017.

The city conducted a national search, paying the International Chiefs of Police Association about $55,000 to help find candidates and rank them.

Ultimately, then Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards selected Hayden as chief – which led O’Toole to file a lawsuit against the city alleging discrimination.

O’Toole made headlines when he said the police “owned the night,” in September 2017 following mass arrests during protests that followed the acquittal of former St. Louis Officer Jason Stockley for the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. That night, police arrested dozens of people including a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter as part of a technique that became coined as “kettling.” Many of those arrested that night have filed lawsuits against the city.

Five police officers were also indicted for assaulting a Black officer who was working undercover as a protester during an arrest attempt. Two pleaded guilty, and one was found guilty at trial. Another officer was acquitted and two juries have hung on whether the fifth officer destroyed the undercover officer’s cellphone to hinder an investigation.

In his lawsuit, O’Toole alleges Edwards told him if it hadn’t been for Stockley, he would be chief.

Jones has filed a lawsuit against the city as well, accusing Dotson of gender discrimination against her when he promoted a Black man over her.

Ultimately a judge dismissed the suit.

Jones and Warnecke locked horns earlier this year after Warnecke blocked Jones from a virtual meeting about crime statistics. The move led to criticism of Hayden's handling of the matter with some accusing Warnecke, who is white, of bullying Jones, who is Black. 

Ultimately the department issued a statement on Twitter, which read, in part: "When made aware, Chief Hayden immediately ensured the commander was invited to this & future meetings."

Sack faced some scrutiny in 2019 after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner created a so-called exclusion list, banning certain officers from applying for warrants or testifying in cases. Gardner's spokesperson claimed Gardner did so at Sack's request, and that Sack sent over the officer's names. 

Hayden denied Sack ever did.  

Who will apply?

Should Jones, O’Toole, Sack and Warnecke apply for the job this time around, it will look somewhat different.

The Department of Personnel will conduct the interviews and rank the candidates.

The only outside help will come from a marketing firm. The city currently has an RFP seeking firms to help spread the word about the position.

Each candidate’s training, experience and education will count for 50% of their score, and how they do on a management test will determine the other half. The Department of Personnel will take those two scores and certify the top six candidates and send them to the Director of Public Safety to decide.

There won’t be any oral interviews this time around because of COVID precautions, and no citizens advisory group, said Director of Personnel Richard Frank.

“We’ve done (a police chief search) so recently and we heard from the community and got some good ideas, this is a Department of Personnel Civil Service type of affair,” Frank said. “We will rank them based on their qualifications and test scores.”

There is an online portal people can use to submit questions, which has been designed by the mayor’s office. Mayor Tishaura Jones has mentioned having a town hall and listening sessions to discuss what the community wants in its next chief.

Last time around, there were several such town hall meetings held at different locations throughout the city.

“There was some good turnout at Vashon, but what we found was that a lot of the same people kept coming, so it really wasn’t that large of a turnout to be truthful,” Frank said.

So will these candidates apply for the job?

So far, only Jones has responded to my request for comment, saying she is undecided.

The St. Louis County Police Department is also seeking a new police chief after the abrupt retirement of Chief Mary Barton. 

There, a Board of Police Commissioners presides over the department and selects the chief.

The department sent a statement on behalf of the police commissioners, which read: “We have not determined our process for selecting a new chief. The Board intends to announce the details - the process, timeline, etc. - when it is decided.” 

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