COURTESY OF ST. LOUIS CITY
Acting St. Louis Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole — and the 3,349 other employees in the city's Department of Public Safety — are about to get a new boss.
Mayor Lyda Krewson announced this morning that St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards would take over as the city's public safety director, effective November 6.
Under the city's organizational structure, the police, fire and building departments all report to the public safety director, as does the civil service bureau. And while Mayor Krewson is under heavy pressure to fire (or demote) the acting police chief
even as the search continues for a permanent replacement, it's actually the public safety director who has the power to do so.
"I am thrilled to announced Judge Edwards' appointment," Mayor Krewson said in a prepared statement. "His experience, temperament and focus will bring new perspective, energy and leadership to our police, firefighters, corrections employees, our Building Division and the Civil Service Bureau."
Edwards replaces Charlene Deeken, a longtime city employee who will stay on with the city as a deputy director.
The appointment comes just two days after a raucous town hall meeting
in which state Representative Bruce Franks (D-St. Louis) called on the mayor to prioritize hiring a public safety director.
"I’ve heard what everybody said about what they want in a police chief," Franks said. "I actually don’t think the first search should be for police chief. We need a public safety director, full-time ... The police chief is accountable to the public safety director. So if we don’t have the police chief’s boss, then it’s hard to hold anybody accountable...
"I honestly think the first thing we need to do is get a full-time public safety director."
A 1982 graduate of the Saint Louis University School of Law, Edwards grew up near the Pruitt-Igoe projects. In his 25 years as a city judge, he says his maxim has been "there but for the grace of God go I."
Edwards founded Innovative Concept Academy in 2009
, which works to educate kids on their last chance in the criminal justice system. That work earned him national recognition, including a nod from People magazine in 2011
. He was the administrative judge of the family court and the chief juvenile court judge from 2007 to 2012.
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