CLAYTON, MO (KPLR) – One of the most experienced command officers in the St. Louis County Police Department took over as the Chief Friday. The Board of Police Commissioners selected Lt. Col. Jon Belmar to head the force of some 800 commissioned officers.
“The breadth and depth of his experience derived from 27 years of law enforcement experience is what compelled us to choose him,” explained the Board Chair Roland Corvington. Belmar and two other lieutenant colonels were in the running for the job after Chief Tim Fitch announced he would retire.
Belmar has worked in every division of the department and had command positions dealing with tactical operations, emergency management, bomb and arson squad and a precinct. He credited his time as the Affton precinct commander for his understanding how to deliver police services. He has also worked with municipalities that hire the county police to patrol their streets.
The new chief said he would emphasize to his officers, “how important it is to deliver those direct, effective services to the citizens of St. Louis County.” Belmar added, “I know that sounds simple but when you really think about it that`s what it comes down to in law enforcement in my opinion.”
The 50-year-old Belmar becomes St. Louis County`s eighth chief of police. Prior to 1955 a sheriff`s department provided law enforcement service. Four retired police chief`s attended the announcement. Joining Tim Fitch were Jerry Lee who currently serves as director of Missouri`s Public Safety Department, Ron Battelle who runs the first responder charity Backstoppers and Gil Kleinknecht who went on to federal administrative jobs with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Marshals Office.
Politics has played a growing role in the job of County Police Chief. Belmar said he was not concerned about that and would bring no biases to the job. “The police department has to have the ability to cooperate fully with the administration of county government and we will do that,” he said.
Chief Belmar intends to review the department`s hiring procedures to be sure it is efficient. He expects to hire 20 to 25 officers in the near future to fill vacancies. He also promised to continue Chief Fitch`s effort to promote minority officers and be sure they are ‘in a position where they can succeed.’ Emphasizing leadership at all levels, even among patrol officers, will also be part of his agenda.
Chief Fitch was known for his use of social media both Twitter and a blog. Belmar admitted he needs to catch up on those tools pointing out how valuable they can be to law enforcement particularly when someone is missing. And he told reporters his wife learned of his own promotion to chief today via Facebook before he could actually call her.
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