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The Future Role of St. Louis Sheriff’s Deputies

January 27, 2016 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy 4 Comments
Prisoner transport vehicle
Prisoner transport vehicle

In counties all across America the Sheriff is the law — think Andy Taylor.

Where county/municipal police police exist the elected sheriff typically is limited to the courts. As counties grow, the question is often if a county police department should be created. In 2012 Sr. Charles County did just that — effective January 1, 2015:

“The public, when they wake up January 1st, they will still have the same professional men and women doing the job they had the day before,” said Chief Dave Todd, who was sworn in Tuesday with his command staff and some other officers.

Most sheriff’s department employees are simply shifting into police posts — including Todd, who has worked in the department 37 years, the last 17 as a captain.

The change, set in motion by a county charter amendment narrowly approved by voters in 2012, mainly amounts to putting policing under an appointed chief with predetermined professional experience and educational requirements.

The sheriff remains elected and will be in charge of court security, transporting prisoners and serving subpoenas and some other documents in civil court cases. The county elected its first sheriff in 1816. (Post-Dispatch)

Not surprising, the National Sheriffs’ Association doesn’t like the idea of creating a police force headed by an appointed person rather than elected by the people.

For example:

The argument that creating a county police force will save the taxpayer money is on its very face absurd. To accept this notion requires one to ignore some basic “truths”.

First, the creation of a county police force does not mean an end to the sheriff’s office. Indeed, the county must continue to fund the sheriff’s office, which still must serve as an arm of the courts for security and service of court papers. If the sheriff runs the jail, this responsibility remains within his office, so long as he wishes to retain it. Therefore, funding of the sheriff’s office will continue.

Second, the creation of a county police force will mean new expenditures – some on a one-time basis and others reoccurring. New cars, new uniforms, new office space, new personnel, i.e. a new chief, deputy chief and command staff, as well as new road officers. It is foolish to think that all these people can or will be drawn from existing sheriff’s personnel.

Third, who will handle communications? There could easily be two communications systems, one for the sheriff’s office and another for the county police.

In short, there can be no savings to the taxpayers by dividing the duties of the sheriff’s office and creating a county police. Savings usually come from consolidation of agencies and efforts, not from the opposite, and even then such savings are small if realized at all. (County Police v. the Elected Sheriff)

The issues are slightly different when you’ve had both a police department and a sheriff’s office since 1861. For those unfamiliar, the City of St. Louis was located within St. Louis County until the Great Divorce in 1876.  St. Louis became a city-county with both municipal and county offices — including sheriff.

Now we have a candidate for sheriff that wants deputies to be able to do more — traffic stops, for example. If the deputies have time be out stopping motorists then perhaps there should be fewer deputies — with the savings going to have more police officers.

But I seem to disagree with most readers. In the Sunday Poll 58.34% agreed with the candidate while 35% of us disagreed.

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis sheriff’s deputies should be able to execute traffic stops

  • Strongly agree 21 [35%]
  • Agree 10 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [6.67%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [3.33%]
  • Disagree 7 [11.67%]
  • Strongly disagree 12 [20%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.67%]

Don’t get me wrong — in the 25+ years I’ve lived in St. Louis the sheriff has been the same guy: James Murphy. I can’t vote for him, but I also can’t vote for the guy who wants to grow a patronage office.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. guest says:

    Just shut it down and reprogram the funds to the police department.

    • can’t- the sheriff is a constitutional office, every county in MO has to have one, at a minimum to serve papers and do court security. getting rid of just the Saint Louis City sheriff would require a state constitutional amendment that affected just the City, and there are probably enough of those already.


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