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New St. Louis Public Safety Director: Race Matters

Sam Simon, a headline grabber of late, is out as Director of Public Safety for the city of St. Louis, and mayoral aide Charles Bryson is taking his place, effective today.

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Meet the new boss: St. Louis Public Safety Director Charles Bryson replaces Sam Simon, effective today
Simon, a former lieutenant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, will head up the public-safety department at Saint Louis University (undergoing many changes of its own). Bryson, meanwhile, inherits the notorious fire-department problem. The latest development in that ongoing epic: Simon last week ordered Fire Chief Sherman George to make battalion-chief promotions by this Friday.

Bryson says that demand stands: “I will try my best to talk to [George] today. I hope he’ll make the appointments by Friday at 5 p.m. If not, then there will be disciplinary action taken.”

Bryson, who has worked in Mayor Francis Slay’s office for just shy of seven years and has a background in social work, brings an additional new perspective to the director’s office –- that of an African-American. “One of the reasons the mayor chose me is so that we can work on race relations,” says Bryson.

Race has long been said to be a factor in the tenuous relationship between George and city hall. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan offers his take on that today.) “If you talk to clergymen on the north side,” points out Bryson, “they will suggest that part of the problem in the past between the public-safety director and the fire chief may have been race.”

Bryson says he and George already have “a good working relationship” from having made the rounds at various public boards and commissions over the past few years.

As the new public-safety director puts it: “My race will not be an ace in my pocket. It will be a different way of looking at things.”

-Kristen Hinman

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