- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson announced Wednesday that he will retire early to allow the city’s new mayor to “establish her own team.”

Dotson, 47, had been with the department for 23 years and had served as chief since December 2012. He presided over the department through the often tumultuous period that followed the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white officer in the suburb of Ferguson.

New Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Dotson’s retirement Wednesday, her first full day in the job. She said he was not forced out but decided to step aside after meeting with the mayor Wednesday morning.

“We were talking about how to move forward and he made a decision that he was going to go ahead and retire today,” Krewson said in a phone interview.

Dotson said in a statement that he agreed to step down for two reasons: “First, to support our City and second to allow the new Mayor to begin to establish her own team,” he said.

Dotson will serve as a consultant for one year, earning the $129,000 annual salary he earned as chief.

Deputy Chief Lawrence O’Toole will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found.

Michael Brown was unarmed when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him in August 2014, leading to months of protests. A grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to charge Wilson, who resigned in November 2014.

The protests that began in Ferguson quickly spilled over into St. Louis. Unrest escalated after an off-duty St. Louis officer fatally shot 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr., who was black, in October 2014. Police said Myers fired first at officers, but Myers’ family disputed the claim. The officer involved in the shooting was not charged.

Krewson, a Democrat, was elected mayor April 4 and sworn in Tuesday. She pledged in her inauguration speech to rebuild the “frayed relationship” between police and the community. She has also pledged to improve public safety in St. Louis, which has among the highest murder rates in the U.S.

Krewson knows about that crime all too well. Her husband was killed in a carjacking attempt in 1995 in front of Krewson and their two children.

Krewson, who is white, defeated three high-profile black candidates in hard-fought Democratic primary in March. One of her first hires as mayor was Nicole Hudson, a black woman active in Ferguson reform efforts, as director of racial equity and priority initiatives.

Dotson, who is white, announced plans to run for mayor in October but withdrew about a month later under pressure from former Mayor Francis Slay, who said the job of police chief was too important for split priorities.

Overall crime has dropped in St. Louis since Dotson became chief, but the number of homicides has risen sharply. Dotson has pushed for the hiring of more officers. St. Louis currently has about 1,200 officers, more than 100 fewer than the number budgeted.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the St. Louis mayor’s first name is Lyda, not Lynda.

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