The search for a new St. Louis chief of police is over, according to an announcement by city officials Thursday afternoon.
John Hayden will take over as chief after working in the department for more than 30 years, according to a news conference held by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson just after noon Thursday.
He is a life-long resident of St. Louis.
“Many of you thought we were taking too long to find a new chief,” Krewson said. “Our thought has always been: We will take as long as it takes to get it right and today we got it right with the selection of John Hayden.”
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Hayden was one of six finalists for the position after officials began their search for a new chief in April.
Krewson said they were looking for someone who had a “stellar reputation,” a proven track record and who was a good cop, a fair and inclusive individual and possessed the leadership skills to lead the department and the community.
“That describes John Hayden — and I am thrilled to have him at the chief of police,” Krewson said.
Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards thanked interim police chief Larry O’Toole for filling in during the search and expressed confidence in their final choice for chief of police.
“Today we present to you the best candidate, Chief John Hayden,” he said.
Hayden then spoke about becoming chief of police.
“It is a certainly a privilege I do not take lightly and I pledge to do everything in my power to fulfill your and the citizens’ expectations,” the new chief said. “I also want to thank Lt. Col. O’Toole who served honorably as interim chief over the past several months.”
He thanked his family and friends for their support during the hiring process.
“I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life in this police department,” Hayden said. “I believe my love for this city, my experience, my work ethic and my pursuit of excellence will serve me well in the new role as chief of police.”
Hayden said he plans to sit down with other police leaders to address the city’s violent crime, saying he’s aware there have been more than 200 homicides this year alone. He said there needs to be a comprehensive approach and intervention — through community-oriented policing.
“What we want to do as an agency is we want to get back involved with the community very closely and get a lot of feedback from them,” he said. “When people are trusting you, when people know you they are always more willing to help you and certainly more willing to give you information about crimes you are trying to solve.”
He said he plans to use a mobile office throughout the community to speak with residents about issues affecting them and ways to solve those issues.
Hayden said he was overwhelmed when he found out he had been chosen to take the position, describing the moment as surreal.
“Certainly, I began to realize I am going to be chief and in fact have a lot of responsibility — and will certainly consider it a blessed challenge.”