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98 vacant police openings eliminated in latest St. Louis budget

The positions have been vacant for years. The money will be directed to diversion and support programs. Mayor Jones' budget still needs final approval from the board

ST. LOUIS — A plan to eliminate nearly 100 vacant police officer positions in the city passed during a budget meeting Thursday morning in St. Louis.

Mayor Tishaura Jones’ FY2022 budget had several amendments to the original plan, including eliminating dozens of police openings that have been vacant for years. While there are about 150 vacant police positions, the amendment passed Thursday eliminates 98 of them. This leaves about 50 positions that can still be filled.

“No current city police officers will lose their jobs under this amendment,” Jones’ office wrote in a news release Thursday morning.

During the meeting, Jones said she and Police Chief John Hayden came up with the 98 number together. He joined the meeting to support the reduction and said many of the jobs were hypothetical positions that he hasn't been able to fill, despite the city dropping the residency requirement.

If approved by the Board of Aldermen, the police department will need to closely watch overtime numbers in their budget.

The department traditionally has been $3-4 million overbudget on OT, but they stayed within the overall budget because they had extra money from salaries that weren't being paid due to open positions. Now, that money will be allocated elsewhere.

Jones said $4 million in the budget that would have been used to pay for those positions will instead be directed to diversion and support programs as detailed below by Jones’ office:

  • $1.5 million will be allocated to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a subject which received the most scrutiny during public comment last Friday.
  • $1 million towards Victim Support services, including supporting funeral expenses, medical needs, child care, mental health support, case and crisis management, as well as trauma informed support.
  • $1 million towards increasing the capacity of the Department of Health & Human services to support the unhoused.
  • $500,000 towards affirmative litigation, directing the city counselor’s office to provide legal support to the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA).

Jones said the city’s budget for years continued to allocate money for a certain number of police officers, despite a decline in officers actually working for the city.

“Budgets are moral documents, and previous budgets do not reflect either the shared values or the emerging needs of the most vulnerable St. Louisans,” Mayor Jones said. “For many years the budget has not supported the needs of the people and that’s why we’re seeing record numbers of homicides and other acts of violence. What we’ve been doing doesn’t work. This revised budget will start St. Louis on a new path to tackling some of the root causes of crime.”

The budget amendments passed during the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting Thursday morning. The next step is for the Board of Aldermen to take a look at the changes and vote to approve or change them.

Watch the entire board meeting in the video player below:

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