The East St. Louis Police Department swore in four new officers Tuesday afternoon at the East St. Louis City Council chambers — with one other new officer hired in April, these officers are the first to join the agency in about five years.
The agency has seen several officers leave in 2018, including four who retired and another four who left for other jobs. Several other officers are current;y off-duty for disciplinary reasons or injuries.
The department, which once boasted 67 police officers is now down to 42, a number that includes the four sworn in Tuesday: Juan Fowler, Albert Harris, Teron Mister and Tia Mitchell.
They range in age from 31-38 years old, City Manager Daffney Moore said.
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These four officers represent 25 percent in salary savings for the city because their starting salaries are $46,000, compared to the average salary of those who just retired, which was $70,000.
Moore said one of the new officers has more than nine years experience and the others have three years or more of police experience.
“This means we save money in training and sending them to the police academy,” Moore said. “They are certified officers.”
Moore said the city’s overtime budget has been reduced 45 percent in the past year.
The city manager said there are plans to hire more law enforcement officers, but did not have a timetable because of budget restraints.
“We can’t over do anything, but we still, of course, need more officers,” she said, adding the city is plans to create a list of candidates to pull from in the future.
“We are trying to rebuild the community. We want the citizens to be proud of East St Louis. Crime is down. We want to continue positive things here,” Moore said.
“We have a long way to go, but this is a start. We are moving in the right direction.”
The City Council chambers filled Tuesday with area police officers along with East St. Louis firefighters, residents and friends who clapped loudly and whistled as the new hires were sworn in. Some attendees could be heard talking about the officers being young and vibrant.
Wyvetter Granger, first lady of New Life Community Church, located at 1919 State Street, was seated in the audience smiling broadly.
Asked why she was smiling, she said, “This is another sign of hope and life in the community.”
“I am very excited to see more officers will be in the streets, not only for the safety of the other police officers, but for hope it brings to the city,” Granger said.
East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks thanked the new hires for choosing East St. Louis.
“I am very excited we have this opportunity. It is much needed. We hope that soon we will be able to bring on more. We have experienced a lot. I want those who are here to be encouraged. We are working — the proof will be in the pudding.. You’ve come to the city at a very integral point. There a lot of changes. There are a lot of transitions. You represent where we are going. I want you to keep that in mind.”