Capt. Mary Barton named first female police chief in St. Louis County history

Board chose Barton over seven other applicants


Lt. Col. Mary Barton

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.

Since Chief Jon Belmar announced his retirement Feb. 10, the Board of Police Commissioners has asked for public input to “inspire the process” of selecting the future chief for the St. Louis County Police Department. Three “listening sessions” were held in South, North and West St. Louis County, where citizens could address the board directly with what they believed to be the two or three most important attributes the board should consider in their decision-making process.

Ultimately, 45 speakers addressed the Board of Police Commissioners. While each speaker’s input was “unique and valuable,” the board said in a news release, similar themes surfaced often.

“It was clear that the citizens of St. Louis County wanted a trustworthy, experienced leader that values community and diversity,” the board said in its announcement of Barton’s hiring. “After great thought and deliberation, the board has selected Mary Barton as the individual who most exemplifies these qualities and will best carry the St. Louis County Police Department in the future as the next Chief of Police.”

Effective immediately, Barton is promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Effective May 1, Barton will be appointed to the rank of colonel and will begin her tenure as the ninth St. Louis County chief of police. She will be the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“The board listened to the community, worked fast and hard to complete the selection process. The department needs consistent and steady leadership as it deals with COVID-19 and the other challenges facing all police departments in this nation. The board is deeply impressed with the professionalism and personal qualities of the seven other applicants, and the entire Command Staff, especially Deputy Chief Kenneth Gregory, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Bader, Lieutenant Colonel Troy Doyle, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Ludwig, and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Busalaki,” stated board Chairman William Ray Price Jr. in the release.

Board member Laurie Punch echoed that sentiment and said, “Lieutenant Colonel Barton is an experienced leader with a ‘clear vision’ of an equitable future for both the department and the community we serve.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with Lieutenant Colonel 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.”

Barton began her law enforcement career after receiving her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southwest Texas State University. She joined the St. Louis County Police Department in October 1978 and has had held numerous positions including patrol (officer and supervisor), Bureau of Drug Enforcement detective, Bureau of Special Investigations detective, Bureau of Communications supervisor, patrol lieutenant and bureau commanders in staff services, security services and logistical support.

Barton has commanded the North County Precinct and most recently commanded the West County Precinct. Barton also instructed classes at the County and Municipal Police Academy in interpersonal communications, cultural diversity and workplace survival.

In addition, she has instructed fellow employees in interview skills, promotion preparation, report writing and task force development/management.

Barton has received numerous awards, commendations and letters of appreciation throughout her career.

She earned a master’s degree in management and human resource training and development from Webster University in 1991 and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Class 237. Barton is also a graduate of the 74th Session of the Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston.

Barton has served over 25 years in the Greater St. Louis Area Major Case Squad as an investigator, supervisor, deputy commander and chief report officer. She is a member of the International Homicide Investigator’s Association.

She has been a member of the Public Safety Advisory Board to the Special School District for over 30 years, developing and advising on training curriculum for vocational high-school students planning to pursue law enforcement careers.