ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–After getting the job of top cop with the help of Mayor Slay, newly-sworn-in Police Chief Sam Dotson says he won’t play politics or hesitate to stand up to the Mayor if he feels under pressure to make decisions that are bad for the department.
“The Mayor and the members of the board of Estimate and Apportionment — the Comptroller and the President of the Board of Aldermen — I can stand up to them and say, ‘that’s not good for the city of St. Louis. We need to approach it differently,'” Dotson said, “I don’t see that happening. But I am prepared to do it, if it does.”
At 43, Dotson was the youngest of all the some dozen applicants who applied for the job when then Chief Dan Isom announced plans to step down and take a teaching position.
Of all the applicants, Dotson also had the least years of service on the force — eighteen. But he could also claim unique managerial experience, having served as an aide to Chiefs Joe Mokwa and Isom, and having served as Operations Director for Mayor Slay.
Dotson will be the first Chief to run the department under local control — eventually serving at the pleasure of the mayor — after voters in November approved an end to state control. KMOX asked him to address rumblings from the rank-and-file that he will likely seek to slash costs by ending state oversight of the police pension fund.
“Is it working now? Yes,” Dotson said, “Do I support changing it now? No, because it is working. If it’s not working in the future, then I think we have to have a different conversation.”
Dotson was also asked how he might handle potential lobbying from city hall — from the current or future mayors — to award police contracts to campaign contributors.
“We have a competitive bid process, and if that individual participates in the process, good luck to them,” Dotson said.
Fighting crime and advocating for his officers will be his main goals, Dotson said.
To fight crime, he plans to expand the use of “hot spot” policing, so that officers on patrol have updated maps on what crimes are taking place block by block, house by house.
“We are going to make hot spot policing not just a program,” Dotson said, “I am going to embed it into the culture of the department.”
To advocate for officers, Dotson says he plans to seek a pay raise for them, using money saved by consolidating the city’s current nine police districts into six. Plans call for eliminating three captains positions, some lieutenants and some sergeants “through attrition.” The money saved would generate an extra $1.5 million a year for either raises, more officers or more equipment, Dotson said.
“What do I think they ougtha make?” Dotson said, “I think they oughta be paid commensurate with people around the region, and we are currently a little below half. We’re towards the bottom.”
Some officers have complained about the department’s use of dashboard cameras in patrol cars, making them feel “big brother” is watching them. But Dotson says he has no plans to remove the dashboard cameras, because they often help show officers handled an arrest correctly.
Wearing his new uniform and gold badge, Dotson says he gets asked often why he wanted to be chief. He says it all goes back to what he believes was a young boy.
“Actually, I was probably a four-year old when I decided I wanted to be a police officer,” Dotson said, “But my family said go to school, get a degree in business, and go out and make lots of money.
” I was a business major until my junior year in college, the calling really got to me and I applied to the police department. Here we are some eighteen years later, and I was able to be successful and rise to the level of the chief.”