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Merge St. Louis police departments? Centene CEO says yes, but obstacles remain

An academic and police union lobbyist said such a move could be good for the region, but it's also clear there are obstacles to achieving change
Credit: SLBJ
Michael Neidorff says he wants a merger of the St. Louis and St. Louis County police departments. There are obstacles to getting it done.

ST. LOUIS — Centene Corp. helped pay for a study recommending more cooperation between St. Louis' two biggest police departments amid concerns about violent crime hurting employee recruitment efforts here.

And the Clayton giant's CEO, Michael Neidorff, has praised some of that work, focused in the Jennings area. But the study, from New York-based Teneo Group, ultimately didn't address whether the St. Louis and St. Louis County departments should fully merge.

Now, for the first time, it's clear that's what Neidorff wants. In an interview with the Business Journal published last week, he advocated for the city to contract its policing with the county's department while leaving smaller municipal departments alone.

"I'm looking for political partners that want to do it," he said.

An academic and police union lobbyist said such a move could be good for the region, but it's also clear there are obstacles to achieving change.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a statement that "a merger or contracting is not something we are considering," though he praised "unprecedented cooperation" between the city and county departments and said his administration "will cooperate at every opportunity to improve public safety for the region." Michelle Schwerin, chair of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners, provided a statement saying that the department "is always open to conversations that will build stronger relationships, increase safety and improve services for the entire St. Louis region."

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones didn't address Neidorff's idea directly. Her spokesman, Nick Dunne, said in a statement that "Mayor Jones has clearly stated her approach to putting the public back in public safety," a reference to the allocation of federal stimulus funds to violence intervention initiatives.

"The administration will continue to meet with communities and key stakeholder groups where they are to ensure that they feel safe at home and in their own neighborhoods," Dunne said.

Read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal.