St. Louis picks Delaware chief to lead police department


ST. LOUIS – The Wilmington, Delaware police chief, who has been nationally recognized for his efforts to reduce gun violence, will become the new chief of the St. Louis Police Department.

Robert Tracy’s appointment was announced Wednesday by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who said she is confident Tracy can help combat violence in the city, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

“Chief Tracy has a proven track record of reducing violent crime and has done so in several cities, and I believe he can do it here,” Jones said.

Jones said Tracy will be the first female police chief to be selected from outside the St. Louis Police Department. He will take up his new position on January 9th.

Tracy, 58, has worked in law enforcement for nearly 40 years. Before being appointed Chief in Wilmington in 2017, he served in the Chicago and New York Police Departments.

When asked about a plan to reduce violent crime, Tracy said his first step will be to sit down with department heads, union officials and police officers to assess the city’s needs.

“I promise you there will be a transparent plan, but I need to get out there and look under the hood to make sure I see what’s going on and I know the issues that exist here,” Tracy said.

The city said in a press release that in Tracy’s first year as police chief, shootings in Wilmington fell by 56% and homicides by 41%.

Former President Donald Trump paid tribute to Tracy for his work in Wilmington during his 2019 State of the Union address, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“He switched departments,” Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki told the Post-Dispatch. “He completely changed the culture. He was a great chief. You can put the number of detractors he has in a thimble and he has a tremendous number of supporters because he’s worked really hard and reduced crime dramatically.”

But in January, the Wilmington City Council narrowly passed a resolution of confidence in white Tracy because of a lack of diversity in the police force, strained relations between the department and the city’s minorities, and a lack of detailed information were deployed via gunfights involving officers.

The Delaware branch of the NAACP called for Tracy’s resignation after an officer was recorded banging a suspect’s head against a Plexiglas wall during an arrest.

According to a 2020 report, Tracy will take charge of a department of about 1,200 officers, 30.49% of whom are Black. According to a July 2021 U.S. Census estimate, the city’s population is approximately 293,000, 44.8% of whom are Black.

The St. Louis Police Department has a long history of disputes with family members of minority officers. In August, Jones – a black progressive Democrat – signed a bill creating a Civil Oversight Division, an independent agency to investigate allegations of police misconduct and incidents of violence.

Three police associations, including one representing minority officers, are suing to stop the law, saying parts of the law conflict with the Missouri Officers’ Rights Act, which protects officers accused of wrongdoing.

Tracy replaces John Hayden, who was due to retire in February but agreed to stay longer when a conflict between the city’s human resources department and the mayor’s office delayed the statewide search for his replacement.

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