Police Chief Sam Dotson is retiring from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, announced Mayor Lyda Krewson today on her first full day in office.
Dotson, 47, a 23-year veteran of the department, will continue to serve the police force as a consultant for one year. He has been chief since 2012, and he did not respond to the St. Louis American’s request for comment.
“The chief and I had a chance to talk about the future of the Department, and he made the decision to retire,” Krewson said following a Wednesday morning meeting with Dotson. “I am grateful to Chief Dotson for his service and commitment to the people of the City of St. Louis.”
Krewson said a search will begin immediately to find a new police chief and director of public safety. Lt. Colonel and Assistant Police Chief Larry O’Toole will serve as acting police chief in the interim.
Dotson’s retirement is a “good sign” of Krewson’s future leadership, said Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police, a union representing mainly black city officers.
“We think it was a good decision for him to step down because he was in over his head when it comes to understanding the community, understanding his officers and understanding how to productively fight violent crime,” said Taylor, who is a homicide detective sergeant. “Some of these things are systemic, but you still have to have a grasp of it ‒ like the Delmar Divide. His priorities were more linked to downtown St. Louis and towards keeping friends.”
However, Taylor said O’Toole being at the helm is worrisome for many of the Ethical Society’s members. The concerns are related to his suspensions of black officers and the outcomes from the cases, she said. O’Toole is a 33-year veteran and has served in every rank of the department. In 2009 he began his service as deputy commander of the bureau of community policing and served in that role until 2013 when he began serving as the deputy commander of the bureau of professional standards. He was promoted to assistant chief on July 9, 2015.
The Ethical Society of Police has heard that Krewson’s short list to replace Dotson includes Major John Hayden, O’Toole, Liet. Col. Gerald Leyshock and Liet. Col. Edward Kuntz. In a recent interview with activist Anthony Shahid, he said Leyshock is known in the black community for “putting dope and guns” on them.
Taylor said that she hopes O’Toole will make fair decisions in his role as interim chief.
However, she said, “If he becomes the chief of police, a lot of the members of our union will have a problem with that.”