John Hayden Is St. Louis' New Police Chief

click to enlarge Newly appointed St. Louis police chief John Hayden, flanked by Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards and Mayor Lyda Krewson. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
Newly appointed St. Louis police chief John Hayden, flanked by Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards and Mayor Lyda Krewson.

After months of speculation and hand-wringing, John Hayden, a 30-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, will step into the role of police chief.

The appointment, which is effective immediately, came at the discretion of Mayor Lyda Krewson and Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards. Hayden will earn a salary of $153,000 and will take charge of 1,300 sworn officers, 400 civilians employees and a departmental budget of $170 million dollars.

He'll also face the challenge of policing a city that's seen more than 200 homicides this year.

Hayden, a lifelong St. Louis resident, was among three internal candidates for the top spot at the department, a slate which included the interim police chief Lawrence O'Toole, whose candidacy was met with open protests and heckling during a public candidate forum earlier this month.

In the lead-up to today's announcement, much was made of the city's decision to consider candidates outside the department, and many observers — particularly those dismayed by O'Toole's leadership during recent protests — believed new blood was needed to shake up the department.

Instead, the department will continue its unbroken streak of veteran officers finding their way to the chief spot through promotion. Until now, Hayden had served as the Commander of North Patrol. He had also served as commander of the internal affairs division and investigated officers connected to the 2006 World Series ticket scandal.

During a press conference earlier this afternoon, Hayden emphasized his decades of experience and vowed to leverage that knowledge to both fight crime and rebuild trust between officers and residents.

"I’ve spent the past 30 years of my life on this police department," he told reporters. "I believe my love for this city, my experience, my work ethic and my pursuit of excellence will serve me well."

Asked about his first act as chief, Hayden said he would sit down with his command staff to address violent crime. He plans to put more resources to most hard-hit areas.

During his days running North, Hayden noted, he would set up a mobile office in neighborhoods so he could just talk to people. That's something he wants to expand city-wide.

Hayden was also questioned about the department's handling of protests.

"There were some things that we thought worked well during the protests," he said. "There were some things obviously didn't work as well as we would have liked. So we'll sit down among the senior team. We will also sit down and get neighborhood input on how that worked out."

Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis) says Hayden is "not perfect" but he considers him an effective communicator and the best of the six finalists for the job. He was happy to see the city replace interim Chief Lawrence O'Toole, who had filled after former Chief Sam Dotson retired in April.

"I'm just pleased," Franks says, "the mayor didn't go with what we consider the same old same old."

The Ethical Society of Police, the union representing black officers in the city, also praised the decision based on what it described as a "documented history of being morally grounded and holding all officers responsible."

The organization says Hayden has been a strong proponent of community policing and understands the necessity of rebuilding relationships between people and police.

"We will support Chief Hayden," the organization said in a statement, "but we will also hold him accountable for our community and our officers just like we've held previous chiefs accountable."

Additional reporting contributed by Doyle Murphy.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]

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