Monday, May 23, 2016

Highly Responsive Police and City Services….We Have an App For That

Today we begin the roll out of SLMPD Mobile App, an application that lets you interact with city government and the police department the same convenient way you now browse for music, order a pizza online, get directions, buy a book or comment on a news story.

It does some important things.

The ALERT feature keeps you informed about time-sensitive events like general civic emergencies, and Amber or Saraa alerts. SUBMIT TIP allows you to quickly and easily report suspected criminal activity with the help of a drop-down screen, while giving you the choice whether to do so anonymously or by name. You can even include a picture.  A related tool, TIP CHAT, allows for two-way communication to follow up on any tips you submit.

The app also provides shortcuts that take you quickly to the department’s various social media sites, including our FACEBOOK page, YOUTUBE channel, the CHIEF’S BLOG, our TWITTER feed, along with INSTAGRAM and PERISCOPE.

But perhaps the most interesting feature is one that recognizes that crime-fighting goes far beyond the specific issues of deploying police officers. This feature, the CITIZEN’S SERVICE BUREAU, puts the full range of municipal public services in scrolling distance of your fingertips.  Anything the city does for its citizens, you can find here – animal control, fire inspection, parks, recreation centers, recycling, permits, street lights, trash removal, tree trimming, water service and more.

Linking all these functions together is more than just a matter of convenience. It’s also a matter of principle: it's good government.

The services to which your residency entitles you are meant to work together.

The problems we encounter in a modern major city like St. Louis are complex. They have many causes, and they often require multi-faceted solutions.

For example: when someone notices drug activity in a public area, bringing police to the scene is only part of a successful response. To stop the problem from recurring, we may need to do several different things, like removing graffiti, repairing street lights, clearing away branches, coordinating long-term prevention efforts with the parks department, etc. That means many different units of government pursuing the same goal, working together, and sharing information, both with the public and with each other.

This new app will also create a permanent, open pathway to make the process of asking questions easier. Clicking on OUR OFFICERS will let you explain why we failed to meet your expectations – or allow you to tell us how we met them.

There are 320,000 people in this city and 3,000,000 in the Greater St. Louis area. I hope this new technology can be a force that pulls us all closer together…we have an app for that!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

30th Annual Memorial Breakfast - My Remarks

Good morning and thank for being here today to share in this tradition of remembrance for our fallen officers.

As is often the case, there are always special people to thank for their generous support, and again this year, we thank Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who have done so much to make sure this occasion, the 30th time we have come together to honor our fallen heroes, matches the nobility of its purpose.

This year, we recognize for the very first time Police Officer William E. Griffin, born on September 10th, 1898 and killed in the line of duty June 10th, 1923. He was shot at age 24. With the addition of Patrolman Griffin, the memorial roll for the Metropolitan Police Department in the City of St. Louis stands at 165.

Honoring the memory of those lost is a defining feature of who we are. Every culture has its own rituals, created so that people may come together, so we can remember.

Policing is a culture, in many ways its own. It's a brotherhood and a sisterhood. Unlike any other profession, we are unique. We’re unique in the work we do, in the tools we use, in the things we see, and above all, in the risks we share.

Most of the people in this room know exactly what I am talking about and can remember the exact moment when those risks became painfully real.

For me, it was Bob Stanze. We were Academy classmates. He was killed on Tuesday, August 8, 2000. It changed my life.

As we sit together this morning, I ask each of you to start by remembering the one…the officer who, in their death, taught you that the world was unfair and unjust. Remember that officer, and think back to what you felt in the moment of losing them.

That feeling is exactly what we have come here to preserve.

Yet at the same time, we must preserve something else: our sense of justice, our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, our compassion and most of all, their service.

In just the first four months of this year, there have been at least 16 of our fellow officers killed by gunfire in this country.

That is wrong.

Line of duty deaths are down in every other category, but the number of officers murdered by firearms is up over 100% year to date.

I say again, that is wrong.

Here in St. Louis, like you, I worry about our officers every day. In that same four month period, our officers have seized nearly 700 guns, many from the hands of criminals, up dramatically from this point last year.

When I think about those 700 lethal weapons taken off the street, I think about the lives made safer as a result. Today especially, I think: that's 700 fewer chances for anyone to take the life away from another member of our family.

Because the best way to honor our fallen is by guarding the safety of all who serve.

Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless our police officers.

St. Louis Police Foundation 2016 Memorial Breakfast Video

Friday, March 18, 2016

Why A Police Chief Cares About the NGA Decision

Like many people around the area, I’ve been paying close attention to news coverage about the future of The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. While doing some background and reading about the agency, I was struck by their exemplary motto, "Know the Earth... Show the Way…Understand the World".

What makes those words so fitting is how well they capture the mission of the agency and its future. The NGA gathers intelligence about our world. It finds paths to follow in uncertain terrain and it gives our leaders the understanding they need to make the hardest of decisions. One story that really illustrates what a big deal this organization is happened a few years ago, when our nation’s capital was paralyzed by a severe snowstorm. The St. Louis NGA office stepped in and stepped up, taking over critical intelligence functions that could no longer be performed in D.C., functions that were essential to our National Security.

Now, NGA is facing a decision of its own and we in St. Louis have a chance to do for it, what it has done so well for our country: show the way.

Over 70 years ago, the agency found a home here in St. Louis. And a good home it is, surrounded by people who combined the best aspects of a mid-western work ethic with all the sophisticated intellectual and social capital of any major U.S. city. Not surprisingly, the arrangement worked out perfectly, with NGA growing to become a flagship of good government, and with its workforce in St. Louis evolving to include over 3,000 of the modern tech economy’s best jobs. By any measure, this relationship has been a real success story.

But not every decision in public policy yields such positive results. About the same time NGA was settling here, another development was in the planning stages and bound for St. Louis: the Pruitt-Igoe housing project. By sharp contrast, this became a universal synonym for failed government and left St. Louis with one of post-industrial society's saddest stories.

But as it too rarely does, history now offers us a chance to make things right, by tying these two stories together into one, with an unmistakably happy ending.

Having outgrown its current facility, NGA needs land to build a new home. We in St. Louis have that, and plenty of it, thanks to vast and still-vacant property that once included Pruitt-Igoe. Not only is this an ideal spot for purely practical reasons, it also offers an important moral and social benefit. It would be located in one of the President’s federally designated “promise zones”, which should make it a priority destination for federal development resources. To learn more about that, click here.

And make no mistake about that moral dimension. Although any city would gain from hosting such a prestigious guest as NGA, only St. Louis – as the incumbent home – will actually be hurt if political pressures get their way and the complex is located elsewhere. To my way of thinking, that alone makes our city the right choice.

But why should I, as Police Chief, care about this issue? What does the location of a map-making agency have to do with the problem of crime and the ongoing effort to make St. Louis a safer society?


One of the most tragic consequences of the Pruitt-Igoe policy failure is the damage it did to our community. By concentrating poverty, the project intensified crime. By intensifying crime, it spread fear. By spreading fear, it discouraged development. And by discouraging development, it aggravated the problem of poverty, resulting in a vicious cycle that took decades to break.

The good news is the entire process can be reversed. By encouraging development, we decrease poverty. By decreasing poverty, we discourage crime. By discouraging crime, we reduce fear. And by reducing fear, we inspire further growth and development. St. Louis has already been succeeding with this model for decades. In all the key categories, and on all the major metrics, our city is twice as safe as it was in the early 1990s. This approach works. In the long run, it’s really the only thing that does.

A new NGA facility in the heart of St. Louis is just the push we need to make it work even better. What we have here is nothing less than a historic opportunity. We can take the sad legacy of Pruitt-Igoe and replace it with a story of positive growth and successful development.    

For NGA, and for St. Louis, the way forward is also the way home. And home is St. Louis.

This illustration shows one potential site layout for the next NGA
West site in North St. Louis. 

The illustration, among others, can be found in this Briefing Book
My letter of support can also be found on page 52 of the document. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year: My Message to SLMPD

This week brings us to the end of one year and the beginning of another. For most people, New Year’s Day carries two meanings. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, yet also a chance to look ahead and make resolutions for the future.

This ritual should not be limited to individuals alone. Organizations also have a need to reflect and resolve, to learn from experience and to gain focus by clarifying shared aspirations.

The past few years have certainly taught us much, containing more than our fair share of historic significance. The future will certainly test us as well, with a new set of professional challenges to face.

But despite everything, we look to the future with confidence and optimism. The New Year is, after all, a time of celebration. We look forward to it precisely because we know that our challenges, both individual and shared, are well within our capacity to meet.

We know this, because we can see the proof in our past performance.

Just look at what this agency has accomplished - what you have accomplished - even in the face of unprecedented obstacles. When crime tried to break out of a 25-year long downward trend and take control of our streets, you moved swiftly and decisively to contain it. Indeed, only by the grace of your actions has St. Louis been able to limit the increase. Other cities have not fared as well against the nationwide spike in crime.

The fact that you did this at a moment when officer staff levels are at their lowest in living memory is an even more powerful testament to your dedication, talent and skill. Rarely in the field of public safety has so much been owed by so many, to so few.

The fact that you did this without sacrificing our agency's commitment to community outreach is a testament to your decency, your humanity and your sense of kinship with the citizens you serve.

The fact that you did this under the looming menace of terrorism - in all its heavily armed forms, from Paris to San Bernardino to Colorado Springs - is a testament to your courage.

When I reflect on these lessons of the past, I see a clear direction for our future in 2016.

We must keep crime reduction as our first priority. To do this, we must continue to combine the best of what works in traditional policing practices with the most promising of what's next in law enforcement technology.

At the same time, we must support those who shoulder the burden of public safety, by rewarding hard work with just compensation and more officers on our streets.

We must continue to make long-term investments in our community, with outreach programs to connect with our youth and with partnerships to harness the power of civic leadership. Crime reduction has always been a collaborative effort by both law enforcement and the community, and it must be even more so in the years ahead.

Frustrating as it has been, we cannot stop fighting for rational policy and sentencing that fits the crime. We must continue to speak out against a system that makes it easy for criminals to arm themselves, while making it infuriatingly hard to hold armed criminals accountable.

And finally, we must not forget to give gratitude where it is due. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is a model agency, known and admired throughout the nation, directly due to the personal qualities of the men and women who work here. Whatever else you do to celebrate the New Year, please take a moment to reflect on that, and to thank each other…just as I thank you.

Happy New Year,
D. Samuel Dotson III

Monday, December 7, 2015

With Eyes Wide Open

Our department is taking another key leap forward this week, and I think it’s vital for every member to know the details.

The past two years have seen a rapid advance in the use of body-worn cameras by police officers. Law enforcement agencies all over the country, conscious of the need to become more open and transparent, have been embracing this technology as the new standard in public safety.

As we have with so many other trends, our organization seeks not merely to follow, but to lead - as indeed we already have led, in advancing the frontiers of openness and transparency with innovations like the in-car camera.

The challenges of bringing body-worn cameras to an agency of our size are significant, yet I know we are more than capable of meeting them without any compromise to our other priorities. We understand this new technology comes at a cost, but we are committed to managing that cost so it does not interfere with ongoing efforts to raise the compensation of our officers to an appropriate level.

The first step will be a pilot program for supervisors that officially begins with a training session held today. The test program will run for 90 days and involve 3 groups of 24 supervisors. Most body cameras will be assigned to patrol districts, but some will be sent to support units like Special Operations, Mobile Reserve and SWAT.

To get a sense of which devices work best, at least two different camera models will be alternated among the participating sergeants. This will help us determine which type, or which mixture of types, will best serve our purpose.

Those taking part will complete a user evaluation, designed to discover any problems or concerns arising in the implementation process. In the spirit of collaboration with our employees, the feedback from those reports will later be used to revise our policies and inform our strategy ahead of any wider roll-out.

There are, of course, numerous questions still to be answered. Of particular interest at this stage of the process is the body camera workflow process.  What are the best ways to handle tasks like docking the cameras, uploading the footage, tagging and categorizing the resultant files, defining access privileges for the system, and integrating it with I-Leads, to name just a few. At the same time, we know there are also important moral and legal issues to be considered, like how to weigh the privacy concerns of citizens beside the goals of public safety, and how to balance the need for Sunshine Law access with the cost of data storage and retrieval. In many ways, this pilot program will be starting out ahead of the social and political curve, as we wait for legislative authorities to catch up to the questions raised by this evolving technology.

Answering those questions with hard data and real-world experience is one of the main things this pilot program is meant to accomplish.

But it isn’t the only thing. Another equally important reason why we are proceeding this way is not technological, but personal. We want our officers to understand and feel confident in a body camera system, just as we want them to understand and feel confident in any other piece of equipment they carry on the job. The pilot gives everyone a chance to learn about the new technology. This is why we have made body cameras part of our discussions in the collective bargaining process and this is why we will forthrightly share what we learn in the pilot with department members along the way.

We take this step knowing that it will further our mission in at least three crucial ways: first, by capturing evidence and helping us get criminals convicted; second, by reducing complaints; and third, by building greater trust between the police and the public we are sworn to protect. We take this step with our eyes wide open, and with the knowledge that life safety – including officer safety – is and always will be our highest priority.

Friday, October 30, 2015

View From the Start Line

Of all the duties that fall to me as Chief of Police, the one I preformed last night is far and away my favorite.

Why?  Because it was Graduation Day at the St. Louis Police Academy. Today, our police family welcomes a host of new members - not just the 17 men and women who received their badges when they crossed the stage, but everyone who shares the journey with them, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, husbands, wives, partners, and friends.

There is no mistaking the special nature of this occasion. I'm 21 years into my career, but let me assure you the memory of graduation remains vivid in my mind.   There's just no denying the impact of the ceremony. Our training process is carefully designed to teach each recruit as much as possible, but in the end there are limits. The classroom inevitably turns out to be comforting and familiar, compared to the world beyond.

You realize this quickly enough, when you dress in full uniform for the first time, and march into a packed auditorium with the city's leaders watching your every step. Something about this moment makes it all seem real. Swearing the Oath of Office, and understanding the awesome social responsibility it represents, brings that reality even closer.

And yet still, the occasion is overwhelmingly a happy one. Once you manage to start breathing again, you realize that you're ready. You've studied, you've prepared, you've trained, and you've made yourself fit for the next step. More than that, you realize you're eager to begin. You remember why you wanted to become a cop. You think about the people you'll protect, the good deeds you'll do.

You have your entire career in front of you, and everything is new. All possibilities remain open, all obstacles negotiable. You're surrounded by people who love and support you, as new friends and old ones alike wish you well.

It's a great moment in any person's life.

The past year has been a trying one for American law enforcement, with unprecedented challenges and extraordinary events. But for these 17 men and women, it's the year their career dream came to be fulfilled. For them, there is only the way forward.

And that's a good thing, for all of us. Their optimism, their energy, and the freshness of their outlook we'll help us meet those challenges, and I believe we could all benefit by taking a moment to see the world through their eyes.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Prayer Vigil at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church: My Remarks

Today, I attended a prayer vigil at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church. The vigil was held in response to criminal incidents in which fire was set to the doors of six churches in the St. Louis region. The investigation into the incidents remains ongoing at this time and anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477). 

I wanted to share my remarks from today's vigil with you-

It's impossible to ignore that this kind of crime aggravates old wounds...old wounds that were never properly or fully healed.  

Fires in churches awaken some of saddest memories in our collective past. Anyone who knows that troubled part of American history must regard these events with utmost concern.

The fact is, when someone attacks places of worship in our community, they attack the whole concept of civil society, aiming violence precisely at the places where people are at their most decent, and their most peaceful.

But whoever it is out there trying to scare us, they have underestimated the power of that decency and the strength of our shared desire for peace.

Whoever this person is, they’ve picked a fight they can't win.

Whatever they think they’re trying to accomplish, they will not succeed.

Our community is stronger than they are.

It's also more united than ever before.

I have always believed in regionalism, in cooperation across political lines, which is why two years ago, we merged our Bomb and Arson detectives with those of St. Louis County.

The result of that collaboration today is that we're going after this crime, not just with the resources of one town or city, but with those of Greater St. Louis.