The St. Louis Police Department has a new leader. During a Thursday afternoon press conference, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards announced that Police Commissioner John Hayden has been appointed as the city’s next police chief.

From left: St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and Police Chief John Hayden

“John Hayden has served St. Louis with honor and distinction for 30 years,” Krewson said. “He has a great track record of building trust in the communities in which he’s served. At this very critical time in our city, John will continue that exemplary service as our police chief.”

“John Hayden and his contributions to the St. Louis Police Department and to the community are respected and held in high esteem by a broad cross-section of the St. Louis community, including his peers in the law enforcement community,” Edwards said. “He treats all people, whether law enforcement or the accused, with respect. I believe that his informed concern for our city will be a great asset in closing the trust gap between the police and citizens. I know that our Police Department must change from within in order to earn the support of our citizens.”

Hayden said his first order of business is to address the violent crime within the city.

“We’re really going to closely work with neighbors. We’re going to work closely with our officers. We’re going to put more resources in the areas that demand the more challenging crime and we’re going to comprehensively approach this and a lot more intervention as well. We really want to do something that will have a meaningful impact on crime reduction.” Hayden stated.

The city’s murder count has reached beyond 200 this year. The last time the city’s murder rate was over the 200 mark was in 1995 – topping out at 205 murders.

Hayden also responded to how he will approach the civil unrest within the city.

“We’ll sit down amongst the senior team. We will also sit down and get neighborhood input on how that worked out and so we’re hoping to have a clear response to protests as well as working with protesters to get their input as well,” said Hayden.

St. Louis Police, along with Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole, came under scrutiny for alleged police misconduct during protests this year stemming from the acquittal of a former white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black drug suspect. This led to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hayden’s views on creating a better relationship between law enforcement and activists is something that seems to resonate with Missouri State Representative Bruce Franks, D-St, Louis, who served in leading some of the demonstrations.

“I think if anyone can bridge that gap it can be Hayden. Because of what I’ve known of Hayden is he has always been one to communicate.” Franks said.

Hayden will earn $153,000 a year as police chief. He will be in charge of a department of 1,300 sworn officers, 400 civilian employees, and a yearly budget of $170 million.

By Missourinet contributor Jill Enders