The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners has chosen Capt. Mary Barton, who commands the West County Precinct, as the first female police chief in county history.
Barton, who has 41 years of experience at the St. Louis County Police Department, will lead the department starting May 1, after Chief Jon Belmar retires April 30.
The police board kept the search internal-only, asking captains and lieutenant colonels to apply. Out of more than 20 possible candidates, the board received applications from eight, including three lieutenant colonels and five captains. The vote to hire Barton was unanimous for the five-member board.
Barton was not available for comment before press time.
The head of the St. Louis County Police Association, Joe Patterson of Oakville, applauded the board’s decision.
“This appointment is historic in the sense that Lt. Col. Barton will be the first woman chief of a large Police Department in the St. Louis Metropolitan area,” the union said in a statement. “Women represent the fastest growing demographic of law enforcement officers and Lt. Col. Barton’s appointment is a beacon of light for those officers.”
Barton joined the department in October 1978 and commanded the North County Precinct before moving to West County.
She has held numerous positions, and Belmar welcomed her as his successor.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Lt. Col. Barton for many years,” Belmar stated. “I am confident that she possesses the abilities to lead this Police Department. I look forward to working alongside her in the transition leading up to my retirement.”