Pevely’s new police chief, Alan Eickhoff, is no stranger to working under challenging conditions.

Eickhoff, 63, took over the Pevely Police chief job on July 1 and will be paid an $80,000 annual salary.

He is coming to Pevely after a nearly five-year stint in Ferguson as its assistant chief/lieutenant colonel.

“I was there a little short of five years,” he said. “The week of the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014 was my first week in the Ferguson Police Department.”

Brown, a young black suspect, was shot by a white police officer, which triggered rioting in the city of Ferguson and brought national attention to the city.

“It was a challenge, a challenge dealing with an angry public,” Eickhoff said. “You’re defending the police officers, the community, the citizens. You want to give the people the freedom of speech, but you also need to stop the looting, the shooting and the destroying of property while protecting the freedom of speech to all who have a right.”

Eickhoff said he believes the situation in Ferguson has gotten better, but work remains. “To be honest, the community is still healing,” he said.

The Pevely Police Department has had a number of recent problems of its own.

Eickhoff is filling the chief position, which has been vacant since March 31, when former Police Chief Tony Moutray resigned after being placed on paid administrative leave amid allegations about a domestic dispute at his Festus-area home in November 2018. He was making a $55,000 annual salary when he left.

In May, the Pevely Board of Alderman voted to fire Police Cpl. Robert “Ryan” Watson, who has been charged for allegedly assaulting a man who was in custody at the Pevely Police Department in April.

The board also voted that day to fire Patrolman Wayne Casey, who has not been charged in that alleged assault, but was sued in federal court by a Texas man who claims Casey violated his civil rights in a January incident.

Nevertheless, Eickhoff, who lives in south St. Louis County, said he’s excited for the new challenge.

“It’s a chance for me to be the chief,” he said.

It’s also a shorter commute, Eickhoff said. “For me to go to Ferguson was 35 miles. This is 12 miles,” he said.

Eickhoff said he believes community relations is a big part of police work.

“My philosophy is, ‘Lead by example,’” he said. “I’m really big on fighting crime, but also on police-community relations. I like my officers out of the car and talking with the public.

“It’s: With one hand you’re fighting crime, with the other shaking hands. It all goes hand in hand.”

The Pevely Police Department currently has 13 officers, and there are two vacant spots. “We’re looking to hire two more officers,” Eickhoff said.

He said he is a major proponent of neighborhood watch programs.

“I want to establish as many neighborhood watch programs as we can,” he said. “Retired people are great for this because they know who belongs and who doesn’t. Everybody needs to be involved. The community is one of the biggest tools on our belt.”

The Pevely Board of Aldermen was supposed to vote July 1 to approve the Eickhoff hire, but there was no quorum that night and the meeting had to be canceled. (See related story above.) City officials said the board is now scheduled to formally approve Eickhoff’s hiring at its next meeting, on July 15. Nevertheless, Eickhoff is considered hired, Mayor Stephanie Haas said.

“We have offered him the job and he has graciously accepted,” Haas said.

She praised the Pevely Police Review Board for recommending Eickhoff for the position.

“I think the Police Review Board did a wonderful job going through the applicants they had,” Haas said. “I agree with the Review Board that Mr. Eickhoff’s background and credentials will fit our needs to shine a positive influence on our Police Department.”

Ward 1 Alderman Larry Coulson, who serves as the Police Review Board chairman, said Eickhoff stood out among the 24 applicants for the position.

“He has the experience, the education and, most importantly, the temperament for this particular job,” Coulson said. “When we set down the specifications we wanted, he fit it to a T.

“Coming from Ferguson, he has the experience at community policing we were looking for.”

Eickhoff began his career in law enforcement in 1978 after graduating from the St. Louis Police Academy.

“I spent 32 years with St. Louis County Police,” he said. “I left in August 2010 and went to the Creve Coeur Police for four years, then spent the last five years with Ferguson.”

A 1974 Ritenour High School graduate, Eickhoff earned an associate degree in 1976 from St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice in 1978 from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Eickhoff said he had a positive feeling about the Pevely Police Department after his first few days as its leader.

“It looks to me like it’s a good department,” he said.

Eickhoff and his wife, Dawne, have three children.