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St. Louis police to end 12-hour shifts earlier than expected

Mandatory overtime weekend shifts to last through the end of August, not September.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis police officers will be returning to their normal eight-hour shifts earlier than expected after spending summer weekends working mandatory 12-hour overtime shifts to deal with a reduced roster during the warmer months.

Recently retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden began the 12-hour shifts on June 10 and said they would continue through the end of September as crime typically rises during warmer weather.

Interim Chief Michael Sack sent a memo department-wide Thursday saying the overtime shifts would end Aug. 28.

“I appreciate the effort and sacrifice each of you make every day,” Sack wrote in the memo obtained by the I-Team. “I also appreciate your perseverance through this summer, working 12-hour shifts on the weekends. I know this was hard on you and your families…

“I want to thank you again for putting in long hours during the weekends this summer. I know it was difficult and tiring.”

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St. Louis Police spokesman Sgt. Charles Wall declined to comment on whether why the initiative was cut shorter than expected, but sent a statement. 

"While we do not have any crime statistics to gauge specifically how effective the 12-hour shifts were, we continue to see an overall decrease in crime for the year," he wrote. "Specifically, a 19% decrease in overall crime in the month of June (compared to last year) and a 17.2% decrease in July (compared to last year). 

"Our most significant increases continue to be related to Motor Vehicle Theft which, as you have previously reported on, is due in large part to the significant increase in the thefts of certain KIA and Hyundai vehicles."

St. Louis Police Officers Association President Jay Schroeder said the department is short about 230 officers because Mayor Tishaura Jones cut 100 officers from the staffing table, and officers are leaving the department in favor of better pay elsewhere.

In recent weeks, Jefferson County and St. Louis County have offered 1 for 1 pay rates for experienced officers, which allow them to get paid the salaries they pay their own officers with the same amount of years on their forces.  

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"This is something the SLPOA has been saying for the last two years, and now this is what it has come to, and it’s not improving, it’s just going to get worse," Schroeder said. "This is just a temporary fix."

At a press conference discussing downtown safety updates at the beginning of August, Jones cited a 2020 study of the department when asked what her plan is to recruit and retain officers.

“(The study) showed St. Louis actually has enough officers, they just need to deploy them in the right way,” Jones said. “And so we have been looking at our deployment strategies, along with the Center for Policing Equity, to make sure that we can deploy our officers in a smarter way and also making sure that we're deploying our alternative responses.

“So we have Cops and Clinicians, we have a diversion program that takes a little bit of that burden off of officers responding to every call.”

She also said St. Louis isn’t alone in its struggle to find officers, which she found out while attending an event sponsored by the National League of Cities.

“There wasn't one mayor at the table who also isn't experiencing an officer shortage,” she said. “So it was not just St. Louis, it's Tacoma, Washington, it's Jackson, Mississippi, it's Union, Georgia, it's Savannah, Georgia, it's Montgomery, Alabama."

The plan called for all officers and sergeants assigned to either evening or night watch shifts in the Bureau of Community Policing/Specialized Enforcement to work mandatory 12-hour shifts on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Officers and sergeants assigned to day watch shifts remained on standard eight-hour shifts.

Officers assigned to the evening watch worked from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., and those assigned to the night watch worked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The Cruising Detail remained in effect, but the hours changed to a 12-hour shift. Specialized Enforcement officers, except for those with the Traffic Division, were no longer directly assigned to the Cruising Detail and were instead assigned to “concentrate their activities within neighborhoods/mission zones,” Hayden wrote.

Hayden also asked commanders to start planning for the extra deployment of officers, focusing “on visibility and hazardous traffic enforcement.”

On Thursday 5 On Your Side talked to some residents and business owners on the city’s north side about the police department’s decision to end its mandatory, 12-hour weekend shifts in two weeks.

On Thursday 5 On Your Side talked to some residents and business owners on the city’s north side about the police department’s decision to end its mandatory, 12-hour weekend shifts in two weeks.

“I think they should extend it at least until kids get back in school,” said Trina Farrow.

Others wanted to see officers work the extended, weekend hours permanently.

“Many owners’ cars are getting stolen. There are a lot of homicides happening in the city. I just think it would be better for them to work the 12-hour shifts on the weekends instead of eight-hour shifts,” said Allessandra Shead.

The police union has criticized officers working the mandatory, 12-hour shifts, saying it would put strains on them.

“Maybe they could find some type of medium to at least make us feel safer and then don’t overwork the police officers,” added Trina Farrow.

“I understand that it’s hard on the officers working 12-hour shifts, but I think overall it’s just better for the community,” said Shead.

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