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St. Louis police chief postpones retirement

John Hayden will remain chief until further notice following comments Mayor Tishaura Jones made about finalists for the job

ST. LOUIS — John Hayden will remain St. Louis’ Chief of Police until further notice as the search for his replacement continues, the I-Team has learned.

Sources familiar with the negotiations told the I-Team Hayden formally agreed this week to continue serving as chief beyond his Feb. 23 retirement date he announced in September. He has been at the helm for four years.

The move follows remarks Mayor Tishaura Jones made in recent weeks about the finalists for the job – one of whom has a pending discrimination lawsuit against the city.

Jones's office issued a statement Tuesday after 5 On Your Side broke the story, saying:

Today, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief John Hayden announced his intention to remain with the force past his original February retirement date. The search for the next police chief is still underway.

The Mayor does not have unilateral authority to restart the police chief search herself. That is up to the Department of Personnel and the St. Louis Civil Service Commission. The Mayor's hope for the people of the City of St. Louis is that there is a fair and transparent application process to select the most qualified candidates. She views the Civil Service Commission's concerns about the lack of virtual testing and marketing firm as valid.

Jones told 5 On Your Side’s news partners this month at the St. Louis American: “I only had two white male candidates to choose from and St. Louis is more diverse than white males, our police department is more diverse—there were a lot of diverse candidates within the police department who were kicked out of the first round so I want to start over to find the right candidate.”

RELATED: Byers' Beat: Police chief selection process has turned into chess game

The city’s Personnel Division launched a search after Hayden announced he retire Feb. 23 – the day marking his 35th year with the department.

The Personnel Division required applicants to have a bachelor’s degree as well as at least 10 years of experience at the rank of captain or above – which reduced the pool of eligible internal candidates to only four.

Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole and Lt. Col. Michael Sack were the only candidates to apply, sources have told the I-Team. Both are white men. O'Toole sued the department after the last search for police chief, alleging discrimination.

External candidates were also invited to apply, but did not show up to take the management test.

In a statement, Jones told 5 On Your Side she wanted external candidates to participate in the process virtually given pandemic concerns.

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

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