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Bobbies on the beat: St. Louis aims to redraw police districts

In the dark and dangerous London of the mid-19th century, the British prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, had a plan to create a safer city. He brokered the creation of a professional police force whose members bore his name for decades to come. They were known, rather endearingly, as "Bobbies."

In our own time, the role of "bobbies on the beat" has changed considerably. They make use of high-tech tools, with computers right there in their squad cars. But the mission is still, to a very large extent, the same. The police are supposed to be there to protect and serve the public.

Of course, it is still up to each jurisdiction to decide how to best employ its police forces. In St. Louis, the police chief of the city, Sam Dotson, has put a police reorganization plan before the Public Safety Committee of the Board of Aldermen.

Chief Dotson hopes to win the board's approval of the plan and put it in place by next spring.

Overall, the plan involves reorganization. Chief Dotson wants to reduce the number of police districts. It is currently nine. Chief Dotson would like to reduce it to six.

Dotson says his staff has reviewed crime statistics, as well as the numbers of calls for service, in drawing the new districts. The goal is that all districts will receive equitable service. 

It was only at the beginning of last month that the city of St. Louis regained local control of its police force from a state commission. It is understandable, then, that local authorities would seek this moment to put a more customized local stamp on the operation.

Of course, it remains to be seen what effect moving police boundaries around will have on violent crime or other types of offenses.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "St. Louis police chief unveils plan to reorganize police districts," Christine Byers, Oct. 18, 2013

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