In 1965, Police Chief James J. Nelson became the first Police Chief for the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Chief Nelson had a rich history of service beginning with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department and again after joining the newly established St. Louis County Police department in 1955. Chief Nelson had served in the US Marine Corps before beginning his career in law enforcement. He rose to the rank of Sergeant of Police before he was selected to serve as the first Chief of Police for the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Chief Nelson served the UMSL campus with distinction from 1965 to 1981.
In 1982, Chief William Karabas became the second Police Chief for the University's Police Department and the first UMSL Chief of Police to have graduated from the FBI National Academy (session 112). Chief Karabas began his law enforcement service in 1961 as a police officer in Pine Lawn, Missouri, just minutes from the campus. He later joined the St. Louis Community College at Forest Park before he was selected to serve the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. Chief Karabas' commitment to the community was far reaching. Following his service to the campus, he also served as Chief of Police for Cool Valley, Brentwood and the City of Florissant. After over 52 year of service in law enforcement he spear headed the regional tax funded St. Louis County interoperable radio system as the first Chairman of the St. Louis County Emergency Communications Commission. Chief Karabas served the UMSL campus with distinction from 1982 - 1987.
In 1987, Chief John L. Pickens became the third Police Chief for the University's Police Department. Chief Pickens began his career in 1976 with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Before beginning his career in law enforcement, Chief Pickens served in the US Air Force. He joined Uplands Park (MO) Police department and advanced to the rank of Lieutenant of Police and then joined Pine Lawn (MO) Police department advancing to Chief of Police in August of 1981. As the Pine Lawn Chief of Police, he was the first employee to attend have attended the FBI National Academy (session 146). In July 1987, Chief Pickens was appointed Director of Police for the University of Missouri-St. Louis Police Department. He was the first African American and second FBINAA (session 146) graduate to serve as the Chief of Police for the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Chief Pickens commitment to campus policing was unwavering. In 1994, he accepted an appointment as Director of Public Safety for Northern Illinois University until 2001 when he became the Chief of Police for Arizona State University. He was as an active member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Chief Pickens served the UMSL Campus with distinction from 1987 to 1994.
Following the departure of Chief Pickens' the University of Missouri-St. Louis contracted with St. Louis County Police Department for several leadership positions. Lieutenant Robert Roeseler was assigned by Colonel Ron Battelle, Chief of Police for the St. Louis County Police Department to lead the team assigned to the University.
His performance was met with such acceptance that in 1995 Lt. Roeseler became the fourth Police Chief to serve the University of Missouri-St. Louis Police Department. Chief Roeseler had joined St. Louis County in 1974 and advanced to the rank of Lieutenant of Police. During his tenure with St. Louis County Police Department he served as the Director of the St. Louis County and Municipal Police academy in Wellston, MO. Chief Roeseler's foundation developing police officers drew him to the professional standards provided through law enforcement accreditation. In 1997, through great effort, the UMSL Police Department began the three year accreditation process. His successful leadership gained the Police Department its first international accreditation award with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) dated December 2, 2000. Following accreditation Chief Roeseler became the 1st employee of the UMSL Police Department to attend the FBI National Academy (session 217). Chief Roeseler served the UMSL Campus with distinction from 1995 to 2009.
In 2010, Chief Forrest L. Van Ness became the fifth Police Chief for the University's Police Department. Chief Van Ness began his law enforcement career in 1974 and after serving in the military Chief Van Ness joined St. Louis County Police Department.
He held several investigative positions and commands ranging from the Office of the Chief of Police serving as the Commander of the Municipal Services Unit to a Precinct Commander serving as the Chief of Police for the City of Fenton. As a Captain of Police, he concluded his service as the Deputy Chief of Detectives for the Division of Criminal Investigation with direct command of the St. Louis County Crime Laboratory, Crime Scene, Property Control, and the Fugitive Affairs units.
After becoming Chief of the USML Police and with the support of the administration, Chief Van Ness enhanced the organizational structure creating two bureaus of operations which afford 24-hour supervision and a delineated command structure to focus and strengthen the partnerships between the police department and the campus community.
The agency has remained accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies since 2000 without sanctions. Former Accreditation Managers for the Police Department were: Lt. Alfred Wirt; Lt. John Schupp, Lt. Steve Salamon and Lt. Marisa Smith. The present Accreditation Manager is Executive Officer Paul Anderson.
On January 14, 2016, the UMSL Police Department promoted Marisa Smith to the rank of Captain, the first female minority to hold that position in the department's history. She became the 2nd employee of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the first female from within the UM System to graduate from the FBI National Academy (session 267).
In June of 2017, the University selected its current Chief, Dan Freet.