As police force faces ongoing strain from staffing shortages, audit recommends increased oversight of overtime and monitoring of policies meant to protect officers
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the City of St. Louis as part of the ongoing comprehensive audit of the city. The report outlined opportunities for the department to improve oversight of internal processes as the city continues to face staffing shortages and works to enforce policies that ensure the safety of officers.
“We can’t ignore the realities law enforcement face each day. Police officers here are under significant strain to work more overtime because of the shortage in manpower,” Auditor Galloway said. “The department recognizes the path they are on is not sustainable and are working to implement solutions to address these concerns. That work must continue.”
During the past three years, the department has been consistently short 100 to 150 officers.
Those ongoing staffing issues have naturally resulted in significant overtime accumulation. An analysis found those working in homicide and on federal taskforces were among those with some of the highest overtime totals.
City officials are committed to recruiting efforts, including offering higher starting salaries and continuing a cadet program to encourage interest in careers with the department. The audit also referenced testimony by city officials from January of 2020 in support of lifting a legal requirement that officer have to reside in the city. Earlier this month, legislators in Jefferson City acted on that recommendation and repealed the residency requirement.
As the city continues efforts to address staffing shortages, the audit recommended that department improve oversight of overtime on a division and department-wide basis.
The report also found that more than 1,000 police department employees are registered and approved for secondary employment. The city has internal policies limiting the total number of hours worked to 16 hours a day, whether on or off duty. The audit found several cases when employees with second jobs worked between 18 and 21 hours in one day.
The audit recommended better tracking of secondary employment hours to quickly identify any errors and situations when employees may be working more than allowed. In their responses, the department outlined processes they have implemented to ensure such policies are followed.
The audit found opportunities for increased transparency with meetings of the Civilian Oversight Board, which conducts investigations into allegations of police misconduct. Auditors reviewed closed meeting minutes and found discussion of topics that should have been open to the public.
“An audit is a tool to identify problem areas, recommend changes and improve operations,” Auditor Galloway said. “In this case, the audit recommendations will help shine a light on a process that is critical for addressing citizen concerns.”
In response to the recommendation, the department is working to ensure more of the board’s work is conducted during the regular session and open to the public. The board will discuss certain cases in more detail during open session, allowing the public better access to the work of the board and learning more about the complaints review process.
The City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety includes more than 3,100 full-time employees. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) and the Fire Department (STLFLD) are among its divisions. The complete audit can be found here.
In 2018, Auditor Galloway accepted the request by the Board of Aldermen to complete a comprehensive, independent audit of the City of St. Louis. That request came after a group of St. Louis residents initiated a petition drive to require an audit of the city. For more information on the ongoing audit of the city, visitauditor.mo.gov/STLAudit.