Jeff Souders said he always wanted to be a police officer as long as he can remember.
“I always have liked to help people,” he said.
A couple years ago, the Des Peres, Mo., native responded to a newspaper ad about the village of St. Jacob looking for a part-time police officer.
“I applied for the job on a whim,” he said.
He got it. Then, about a year ago, he was promoted to captain. “The job has evolved,” he said.
His role has now expanded all the way to chief, the first person to hold that title since Larry Morietta retired in 2010 after serving over more than 30 with the department.
“I wasn’t even looking for a full-time job,” said Souders, who took the job earlier this summer. “I was looking to work only two days a week.”
It’s the first time Souders, a graduat of Kirkwood (Mo.) High School, has held the title of “chief,” but it’s not his first experience in command.
Souders, 62, worked 37 years as a police officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, working his way up to lieutenant.
Some aspects of Souders new job are the same as his hold one, budget constraints, for instance. But other areas are quite different.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department had about 2,200 police officers when Souders joined the force in 1972. St. Louis now has about about 1,200 officers, but that is still larger than the entire population for the village St. Jacob, which has about 1,100 residents.
Souders is the only full-time police officer. However, he has nine part-time officers, including two new ones. Officers Tom Jeffrey and Dan Gilmore started recently with the department.
While St. Jacob does have some crime, it is miniscule when compared to St. Louis, just a half-hour away. But Souders and his fellow officers are staying busy, engaging in community, he said.
“Community policing,” a law enforcement strategy that promotes interactive partnerships between law enforcement and the people they serve, is something Souders strongly encourages.
“These partnerships will help us find solutions to problems through collaborative problem solving and improved public trust,” the new chief said, waving at a passerby.