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Fox 2 News: St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden announces retirement, search for replacement underway

ST. LOUIS – After serving nearly four years as St. Louis’ senior law enforcement official, John Hayden has announced his plans to retire.

Mayor Tishaura Jones joined Chief Hayden for Wednesday’s announcement. She thanked the chief for his service to the city and his commitment to cooperation.

“I thank Chief Hayden for his decades of service protecting the City of St. Louis and its residents. Our city appreciates the leadership he has shown in trying new tactics to help reimagine and improve public safety,” she said. “As we begin our nationwide search for a new police chief, we will keep the public involved and informed through community conversations to ensure we recruit the best possible candidates.”

Although Hayden still has a passion for policing and serving the community, he and his family decided it was time for him to step away.

Hayden will retire on Feb. 23, 2022.

Former Mayor Lyda Krewson named Hayden police chief on Dec. 28, 2017, after Sam Dotson retired. Hayden is the city’s 35th police chief and fourth African American person to hold that post.

Chief Hayden, 58, has worked in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for more than 34 years.

Mayor Jones did not mention anyone in particular who she had in mind for the position. She’s calling on St. Louisans for feedback on hiring the city’s next police chief.

Citizens are encouraged to fill out an online survey detailing what they want in a police chief. That input will be used to create a questionnaire that will be used during the hiring process. The city is also organizing two listening sessions in October, with plans for a public town hall in the coming months.

Dan Isom, the city’s interim public safety director and former police chief, will lead the search for Hayden’s successor.

Isom and the mayor’s office will look at internal and external candidates from across the nation who are experienced in 21st-century police methods. Mayor Jones has been an advocate for addressing crime at its root since her campaign and wants to see that continue to be a priority with the new police chief.

“That person has to be a dedicated public servant, number one, but also dedicated to re-envisioning and re-imagining public safety,” she said.

Jones has seen a positive turn in public safety and crime prevention since she was elected. She said the city’s homicide rate is down 35% compared to this time last year. She believes in allocating resources and connecting residents to the proper response team needed for their particular situation, including mental health professionals.

John Leggette, the chaplin for the St. Louis Chapter of the Ethical Society of Police, commended Chief Hayden for his dedication and service over the years. Leggette believes holding our local police forces accountable for their actions is what will rebuild trust between law enforcement and residents.

When asked who would be the best fit for the job, Hayden said, “I think the person has to be a person of high integrity. A person that realizes what you do and how you do it is just as important as getting the job done.”

In addition to tackling violent crime in the city, Leggette said the new police chief will be faced with challenges in police recruitment, retention, department bias and racism, and trust among the community.

She is calling on the community to help them make decisions throughout the hiring process.