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Interim personnel director's term extended to oversee St. Louis police chief search

John Moten's term was set to expire in September. It's been extended through November as the search for the next police chief approaches the one-year mark.
Credit: Google Earth Studio

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Personnel Department will have 35 applicants to pick from to become the city’s next chief of police and the interim personnel director’s term has been extended so he can oversee the process.

Interim Director John Moten said the Civil Service Commission extended his term through the end of November. Mayor Tishaura Jones appointed him earlier this year, and his term was set to expire in September.

He said his goal is to name a permanent police chief by the end of this year.

Moten extended the deadline to apply for the police chief position to Aug. 15 from July 31. The extension netted just one more applicant.

Moten would not say how many of the candidates were internal or external or give any other information about the applicants.

“We have a robust applicant pool of at least 35 applicants with a mix of internal and external applicants,” he wrote in a statement to 5 On Your Side. “The applications are being evaluated in consultation with the outside firm.”

RELATED: Byers' Beat: Application process to become St. Louis police chief extended

A local business group is paying for the outside firm, the Boulware Group, to conduct the search.

The search for a new police chief began almost a year ago, when John Hayden first announced he was retiring in September 2021.

He said he planned to leave the force at the end of February after a 35-year career.

The city’s Personnel Division then launched a nationwide search for his replacement.

In St. Louis, the personnel director determines the qualifications for police chief and conducts the search. The personnel director is appointed by a mayor but does not serve at the pleasure of any mayor to prevent patronage.

The Personnel Division sends a list of six finalists to the director of public safety, who then chooses the winner.

RELATED: St. Louis relaunching nationwide police chief search, Hayden sets retirement

That first list generated at the end of 2021 included four external candidates and two internal candidates, Lt. Col. Michael Sack and Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole. They were the only candidates to show up for the written portion of the test, so they were the only ones to advance to the mayor’s office for consideration.

Sack and O’Toole are white men. Jones said she didn’t believe they reflected the diversity of the department and said the process wasn’t transparent enough to the public.

She called for a re-do.

The city’s personnel director then retired, and Jones appointed Moten to serve as the interim for six months. His official term began March 1.

Jones announced the Regional Business Council would be paying a consulting firm, the Boulware Group, between $50,000 and $60,000 to conduct a national search for the position.

Moten changed the requirements for the job. Instead of requiring candidates to have experience at the rank of captain or higher for at least 10 years, applicants with at least five years of experience as a lieutenant or higher could apply.

Meanwhile, O’Toole settled a discrimination lawsuit with the city that he filed in 2017 and he retired, which left Sack as the only remaining finalist from the first search.

RELATED: Byers' Beat: One police officer's discrimination lawsuit settles while another just gets started

Hayden then agreed to remain on the force until June.

Jones appointed Sack to serve as the Interim chief and said it was possible he could become the city’s next chief.

Jones would not answer what qualifications she was seeking that Sack didn’t already have during a press conference announcing him as the interim chief.

“We want to make sure that we keep our promise to the community to be transparent and present all of the candidates for various town halls and neighborhood meetings,” she said during the May 18 press conference announcing Sack’s temporary promotion.

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