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St. Louis city and county police to work in each other’s jurisdiction soon

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- St. Louis city and county police officers will soon be allowed to make arrests on either side of the city-county line. And some high ranking people want the move to cross-deputize area cops to be a first step toward a broader merger.

The top cop in the city, Chief Sam Dotson, says this initial move makes good sense.

“Criminals that live in the county offend in the city. Criminals that live in the city offend in the county. So why don’t we take a regional approach to crime?”

He says he and county police Chief Tim Fitch have discussed that approach, and determined that the so-called cross deputization is the way to go. Dotson says they hope to make the practice reality early in 2014.

But in a time when discussion of the city of St. Louis re-entering St. Louis County or even a merging of the two is on the front burner, it begs the question: is this move a first step toward a full merger of the two police departments?

“I think that we want to lead the conversation there,” Dotson said. “We’ve already seen Mayor Slay and County Executive Dooley merge the economic development piece.”

The reaction of the rank and file is supportive to a point. St. Louis Police Officers’ Association spokesman, Jeff Roorda, believes the initial proposal is a good one.

“We’re certainly interested in apprehending criminals beyond the county borders and county cops apprehending criminals beyond the city borders. That’s good for everybody.”

But the idea of a full merger is a different conversation. Roorda says the two departments are better off as just that, two departments.

“With regard to providing police service to an area as big as St. Louis City or St. Louis County I think you can get so big that you can’t provide the services in such a way that’s in the best interest of the citizens who are paying for that service.”

Dotson says he plans to offer legislation to the city’s Board of Aldermen in the early part of the year to get the cross deputization approved. He doesn’t expect much opposition.

Dotson says he and Fitch are also taking steps to get the FBI to change the way they take the area’s crime statistics, allowing the city and county to combine numbers. This would remove St. Louis from many of those “10 Most Dangerous Cities” lists.

“We’re asking the FBI and the justice department to look at the way that we report crime and allow us to report as a region and not just as a city or just as a county. It doesn’t change any of the numbers. What it does is put them in a proper context.