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Byers' Beat: More St. Louis police officers leaving the force; retrial begins Monday for 2 officers

In the city, departures have picked up their pace in recent months. And Monday two officers are set to go back on trial for charges related to the Luther Hall case
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — Police officers are leaving the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

It happens every year to every department – but in the city, the departures have picked up their pace in recent months.

In the first quarter of this year – which ended March 31 – 27 commissioned officers resigned along with five trainees, for a total of 32.

That was a 13% decrease in the number of officers and trainees who left during the same time period in 2020.

But, between April 1 and June 1, 22 more officers left along with another five trainees. During that same time frame in 2020, 12 commissioned officers and three trainees left.

Those numbers sent the percentage pendulum swinging 13% the other way compared to the same time frame in 2020.

Police union leaders stood alongside Republican state legislators this week who blamed Mayor Tishaura Jones for low police moral and out-of-control crime stats as her proposed budget calls for a $4 million cut to the police department’s budget.

Jones was elected in April and part of her campaign platform included the belief that money is better spent on social service programs that can prevent crime rather than on police salaries. She’s planning to cut about 50 officer positions, which have remained vacant for years.

The department has used those vacant positions to pay for overtime officers most often work during times of civil unrest.

The state legislators are threatening to take back control of the city’s police department – which, until 2013, was controlled by the state.

They cited the departures of officers as proof that the so-called Defund the Police movement is causing officers to leave.

Jones fired back at a stat St. Louis Police Officers’ Association attorney Jane Dueker gave me.

Dueker said 44 officers left the department in the first quarter. Jones said she wasn’t counting those who had graduated from the academy with the hashtag #Youtried.

The personnel department tells me 24 recruits graduated in the first quarter. Year to date, 45 recruits have graduated, according to the department. Once they graduate, they have to spend 15 weeks riding with a training officer before they can patrol on their own.

The city’s Director of Personnel Richard Frank said the average length of service for the officers leaving this year is 10.51 years.

In 2020, the average length of service was 15.62.

As to why they’re leaving, Frank said it’s hard to measure precisely. Officers are asked to state their reasons for leaving in exit interviews, but it’s voluntary.

Still, Frank said a good portion have shared their reasons. He said he can’t give exact numbers because of the city’s privacy ordinance, but shared the anecdotal evidence.

“The majority of officers are not leaving for police officer positions in other municipalities or counties,” he said. “They are leaving the profession entirely or retiring early.

“With the high crime rate, pandemic, civil unrest and ongoing criticism of police officers nationwide, officer morale appears to be low.”

Franks said about half of the officers who have left so far this year told his staff they had accepted another position in a different profession elsewhere. The majority of the remaining half opted for early retirements and cited personal reasons.

“A few, but not many, were disciplined,” Frank said.

All rise

The retrial of two former white St. Louis police officers accused of beating a Black colleague who was working undercover as a protester in 2017 will begin Monday.

To recap, former officers Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone have been federally indicted for allegedly assaulting Officer Luther Hall, who was working undercover as a protester to document property damage and other crimes. The assault took place when the officers arrested him, claiming he ignored orders to disperse and matched the description of people involved in vandalism.

Credit: KSDK
Christopher Myers (left) and Dustin Boone (right)

The city has settled a lawsuit with Hall for $5 million, and he remains on the force albeit not on active duty.

In March, a two-week trial for Myers and Boone along with Officer Steven Korte ended with partial verdicts.

Korte was acquitted.

Myers was acquitted of the most serious charge – depriving Hall of his civil rights – but the jury hung on a destruction of evidence charge. Myers is accused of destroying Hall’s cellphone – which captured some of the assault –  in an attempt to hamper the investigation.

And the jury hung on whether Boone is guilty of depriving Hall of his civil rights, which carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in a federal penitentiary.

Perhaps the most damning evidence against Boone was text messages he sent to his father, a retired St. Louis police officer, in which his father told him he heard he put a good whoopin’ on Hall. Boone responded: “Yeah, one I’m not proud of.”

Credit: Trial documents
Photos released as part of trial proceedings show Luther Hall's injuries after the arrest.

This time around, there will be many more damning texts jurors will hear that came from Boone’s cellphone, including use of the “n” word and references to other questionable use-of-force incidents.

I will be there to bring you the latest from the trial.

For a full recap of the first trial, follow my coverage that I tweeted as it unfolded in the document below:

Trial coverage: