Friday, August 29, 2014

Recruit Class 2014-01 Graduation: My Remarks

Normally when I speak at graduation, I have the luxury of focusing my attention on the new officers...who sit before you at the optimistic start of their careers. Every one of them has worked hard earning the right to be here, and they deserve to be recognized for it.

But tonight I must temper my usual tone...by speaking about some of the serious challenges everyone - including and especially these young officers - must be prepared to face.

For this ceremony takes place under the shadow of two distinct events …one distant and one recent.

The long shadow is that of Officer Nicholas Sloan, to whose memory Class 2014-01 is dedicated.  

Nick was killed in the line of duty nearly ten years to the day, before these recruits began their training.  
One member of the class, soon to be Officer Adam Zeiter, grew up across the street from the Sloan family, and was sponsored in his candidacy by Nick’s father, retired Sergeant Terry Sloan.

I mention this so you will know the dedication of a police officer is not merely symbolic, it’s personal.

We remember Nick because he earned the right to be remembered. We remember him because policing is not just a profession, it’s a family. Nick was a beloved member of our police family, and he was taken from us…as no member of any family ever should be.

The other shadow looming over this evening is the one we all know too well, cast by the recent crisis which began in Ferguson…but which now reaches far beyond the limits of any one city.

The current storm has passed, and our region is calm again…for the moment. But we must not fall into complacency. The issues raised in these past weeks will not  - and should not – go away.

Ferguson has revealed an ongoing distrust, felt by some toward the police. Ferguson has shown that, despite all the progress of the past four decades, we still have much work to do…and much to fear if we don’t do the work right.

The men and women who came together to protest in our streets did so because they share a sense of disappointment in our society. They believe that society has failed to meet some of its most important goals, and they see in Ferguson a symbol of that failure.

We know, on a fundamental level, that they are not wrong. Our society has failed its young people in many undeniable and heartbreaking ways.

When our children look into their future, they should see only paths to success. Too many of them look ahead and see a broken trail covered in dangerous obstacles, with tragedy waiting at its end.

Even now, in 2014, there are too many people who feel, and have reason to feel, that the main institutions of society are ignoring or working against them.  We know, and we must face the fact…that this is especially true in the black community.

What does that mean, it means…we know there is fear of the police, even in places where the police are most needed.  And we know we must work harder than ever to replace that fear with open communication and mutual trust.

And this is where we must all pray to find cause for optimism. For I can’t imagine any two groups which have more to gain by working together than the police and the African-American community.
I say that because crime takes such a disproportionate toll on the African-American community. Many of the areas in our city which stand to benefit most from further crime reduction, are predominantly black neighborhoods.

And this which is true of crime in general, is especially true of violent crime.

Nick Sloan dedicated his life to stopping that violence. He didn't argue about the color of the people he was asked to protect.  He risked his life – and ultimately gave it – in a struggle to protect everyone from crime and violence.  

These recruits who graduate tonight…they are making the same pledge, accepting the same risk.

Like the 1,300 officers who stand beside them, they are promising to go where they are most needed, and to protect the people who need them most.

They are going out into our streets to work toward a better world, a safer world…a world in which fewer mothers and fathers will ever know the pain that comes from burying a child.

And if that vision is not a basis for unity, I don’t know what is.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, 1915 Olive: My Remarks

Good morning and thank you all for being here to mark this historic occasion...so perfectly symbolized by the march we've just taken together, walking from one phase of history into the next.


Today is a moment of historic change for the police department, and it comes at a time of many such changes. As I gathered my thoughts for this event, I started to think back on what's happened in just the past 18 months.

Earlier this year we completed a city-wide reorganization of the department when we redrew the police map of St. Louis for the first time in 50 years. That project - the switch from nine police districts to six - was truly a massive undertaking.  We took the leap forward, faced the risks, and finished the job.

Why did we do that? Why did we shoulder the burden of redistricting when it would have been so easy to stand still and not disturb the status quo? Why didn't we just do the usual thing, of leaving the problem to fend for itself and handing it down to the next generation? We did it, because we understand something very big and very important: we understand that it costs more to live in the past, than it does to invest in the future.

And the district boundaries aren't the only lines we've been crossing lately.  Another key change in recent days is the growing spirit of collaboration between City and County police. You can see this in the merger of some of our specialized units, in joint training exercises, and in shared vision of fairness when it comes to regional crime statistics. In a variety of ways big and small, we've been working together more closely than ever before. I would like to thank Chief Jon Belmar who is here with us this morning.

Again, you may ask why?  Why did we take the risks of reaching across political lines?  Why didn't we just do the usual thing? I'll tell you why again: because it costs more to live in the past, than it does to invest in the future.

So let's talk for a moment about why we're here...

The Police Headquarters at 1200 Clark has stood for close to a century. Even St. Louisans who've never had a reason to visit that building probably know it as the familiar background image in so many live shots.  

1200 Clark was the setting for countless stories and where thousands of police officers began their careers, as I did when back in 1993. A few years ago we had an evaluation done on our almost 100 year-old home, and the result was grim: 70 million dollars to repair, including 20 million in life safety issues alone.And so we started to consider the options. With support and assistance from our friends, we learned it would be possible to acquire and outfit a new, modern office building for much, much less.

In other words, we learned that it LITERALLY costs more to live in the past, than it does to invest in the future.

So the right thing was clear, and that's what we did.  We did the right thing for our police department, we did the right thing for taxpayers and for city government.I'm very proud of the fact that we did it with roughly half of our funding came from a bond issue, with the other half divided between support from our Police Foundation, and asset forfeiture money.  

By the way, in case anyone doesn't know: "asset forfeiture" means that some of the money for this new building came in the form of cash seized from criminal enterprises. Crime in this case really does pay for the region.
This is an emotional moment for everyone who worked in and loved the old building, But the more we think about it, the more we know: the department's true home is not tied to any particular address. It's wherever we are. The Police Department is not a physical object - it's the sum of the people who serve it, and the people it serves. The Police Department is not a place - it's a spirit of public service that follows us wherever we go. 

Because the Police Department is a family, 1915 Olive is simply our new home. A home we are very lucky to have, by the way.  For those making the switch, the improvement in working conditions will be immediate and dramatic.  In almost every way you can think of, this building is newer, cleaner, safer, better.The more modern space will promote a more modern workflow, and a more modern organizational culture.  

We also have room to grow, part of one floor has been set aside to house the future of law enforcement: a real-time intelligence center, which will become the beating heart of a police department that lives, more than ever, by the flow of evidence, data, and information.

None of this is a product of luck.  All of it traces back to the hard work of good people.  The Police Foundation, whose generosity - always impressive. The leaders in city government who supported this massive endeavor from start to finish. The men and women of the Police Department, who gave everything that was asked of them - diligence, cooperation, and especially patience.  

There are several people to thank...

They all did what they did for the right reasons: because they care about St. Louis, and care about the Police Department charged with keeping St. Louis safe.

And most of all because they understand: it costs more to live in the past, than it does to invest in the future.

Thank you...thank you all. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thank You For Your Efforts: My Message to SLMPD Employees at the Conclusion of Fair Saint Louis

Yesterday brought us to the conclusion of Fair St. Louis 2014.  To the greatest extent possible, this event was characterized by safety, order and efficient public service.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of visitors were able to enjoy the hospitality of this great city, and do what they came to do: have a good time celebrating our nations' birthday.  None of it would have been possible without your work, your skill, your sacrifice and your dedication.

Simply put all did your jobs and did them well.  Despite the enormous challenge of a new location, which required everyone to set aside years of habit and re-think their role in the City's biggest annual detail, you came through and delivered like the professionals you are.

Everyone stepped up in his or her own way: Officers, Supervisors and Commanders of course, but also Dispatchers, Recruits, Planners and other Civilians.  Even those who weren't directly involved did their part, by keeping watch over the rest of St. Louis.

No one who knows you, the men and women of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, would expect any less.

Thanks again and thanks for all you do each day.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fourth of July

This week the United States celebrates its 238th birthday, and our city marks the occasion with we justifiably describe as "America's Biggest Birthday Party", Fair Saint Louis.

 The three-day festival is a truly massive civic project requiring an incredible amount of planning and hard work. The result is a model of public-private collaboration, as representatives of many different backgrounds and interests come together to do something great.

As law enforcement, our job is to preserve public safety, and there are two sides to the coin. We must make the event as safe as possible in practical terms, but we must also help people feel safe while they take part in the fun. We cannot succeed by doing one or the other. We must do both, and be judged by how well we do them.

 At the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, we have many sources of guidance. We have our laws, our policies, our core values, our training and our experience. But today we look back a bit further for our inspiration – all the way back to the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776 – because that's what this celebration is really about. We remember the words many of us memorized when we were kids:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
 
 That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that…it is the Right of the People…to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

I can't think of another passage that captures so perfectly the relationship between the police department and the people. We exist by your consent. We are founded on your principles, and organized in forms of your choosing, to serve the purpose of protecting you and helping you feel protected. Thank you to the officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, law enforcement officers across the country and to the men and women serving in our military. Thank you for your daily sacrifices that allow the people of this country to live in safety and happiness.

That's something we can all celebrate together. So let the spirit of the Declaration guide you this week, as it guides us, and let's help each other have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lane Tabernacle C.M.E. Church: My Remarks

Good morning.

Thanks for welcoming me here to share this day with you. Lane Tabernacle CME is a strong anchor in our community and Dr. James Morris is a good friend and leader, not only of the church, but our community.

I've said this many times before and I'll say it again here today: the true foundation of civic life is not found in the letter of the law, or in the giant stones of the courthouse, or even in the shiny metal of a police badge.

The true foundation of civic life is people, working peacefully together to build a better life…for themselves, and for each other. 

I'm talking about the kind of people you see in this church today.  

Because the real power in our civilization is NOT physical or material, and though we all love our gadgets well enough, it's not even technological. The real power that makes our society work is personal and spiritual. It's the power that comes from people inspired by a common vision of justice, righteousness and peace. And just look around the church today: we have the vision, and have the inspiration.

Many of you have heard me talk about our city's progress and overall decline in crime. You've heard me say that crime is down 50% since 2006, and so it is. You've heard me say that from the year before to last year, violent crime went down by 10%, and so it did.

These facts are true and I believe it's important to share them with the people. But I must be careful, I must be very careful. In saying these things, we may allow ourselves to celebrate a little bit, but we must all remember that there are still too many victims among us. 

In a world where everyone deserves a chance to live a life of dignity...even one victim of crime is one too many. And while we remind ourselves of that, we must also remember something else. 

Peace is everyone's business. The police have worked hard and made great strides in the struggle against violence, but they have not done it alone and they cannot do it without you.

To go further, we must work more closely together than ever before. We need all aspects of society to face what remains of this problem: the police, the courts, the government…but also the economy, the schools, the churches, the families, and even those who are most at risk of hurting or being hurt, the young people in our city, need to work more closely together.

Looking back at what we have accomplished, I am proud and so should you be, but I believe we can do more. I believe we have a brighter future, a safe future, a more peaceful future working together.

And I believe the real key to that future is sitting in this room and in other places like it.

When I imagine that future, I am reminded of John 1st Epistle, Chapter 3, Verse 2:


"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."


Think about that. "What we will be...has not yet appeared." But we are working toward it. And together, we can work even harder and go even further toward building a society where more and more people share the blessings of peace.

Thank you.





Me with Reverend James Morris & Reverend B T Rice at Lane Tabernacle C.M.E. Church 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Promotions

 In April, the Department made promotions for the first time under local control. As a result of some attrition in our ranks at the first-line supervisor level, we were able to promote five people from Police Officer to the rank of Sergeant.

What makes it important is that people always remember their first promotion most vividly. There’s this powerful feeling of being invested with the trust and confidence of your organization. There’s a sense of excitement because your career has just changed, along with a sense of anxiety, because your responsibilities just changed along with it.

Speaking of responsibilities, one of my biggest and most important is to oversee the future of our Department. The promotional selection process allowed me to do just that.

The testing cycle works like this: for any given rank, a test is held every other year. Last year we tested for the rank of Sergeant. This year we’re testing for the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain. The way the process works is we begin by hiring an independent firm with expertise in what are called “assessment center” exercises. Together with this firm, we sit down and draw up a list of attributes we’d like our future leaders to have.

Integrity, interpersonal skill, technical knowledge, practical problem-solving, tactical soundness and organizational vision are qualities we look for in potential candidates.

Once we get a good idea of how we want our supervisors and commanders to perform, the testing firm begins to design exercises calibrated to “assess” the required leadership talents in a series of challenges. That’s why we call the process an “assessment center”.

After the exercises have been conducted and scored, the testing firm gives us a report of the results and our future promotions are based on those results. The people who scored highest on the exercises are the ones who eventually become Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains and beyond. They are the ones who will be entrusted with the task of upholding our core values in the future.

We take the entire process very seriously. We work closely with the testing firm to make sure the program design focuses on the leadership qualities we want and we work with them to make sure the test is administered in a straightforward and fair manner.

The testing cycle for the rank of Lieutenant and Captain concludes this June. I hope everyone will join me in wishing this year’s group of test-takers the very best of luck.

And to the test takers, this is your opportunity to help shape the future of the Department, to change the things you want to see changed and to make a positive impact on the community you serve.

Good Luck!!!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

In the Line of Duty


In 1991, Barbara Miksicek , David McElreath  and retired Lt. Colonel Stephen Pollihan coauthored a very special book called In the Line of Duty: St. Louis Police Officers Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice. The book chronicled the stories of the 148 St. Louis Police Officers killed in the line of duty from 1861-1990.
  
Being a Police Officer is an emotional job, everyday. When an officer is injured it istraumaticbut when an officer dies in the line of duty, it is the worst of the worst.  We remember our fallen officers each year in May during Police Week and with a Memorial Breakfast.  

This year is special. The second edition of In the Line of Duty: St. Louis Police Officers Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice by Barbara Miksicek and Kristiana Carnaghi published is now available. The book tells the heroic stories of all 164 fallen St. Louis Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty. Not only does this book allow us to remember and memorialize our heroes, but it also helps us to share their stories.
  
The stories of each officer’s death have been updated with new information and new pictures. In the first edition, then Police Chief Robert Scheetz wrote the book’s forward.  I was honored to pen the forward for the second edition. Below you can read both Chief’s reflections on those who served our city. I hope these stories move and inspire you.






FORWARD
First Edition



"Here stands our city's perfect warrior.  Here stands our perfect shining blue knight."  These words were spoken by Jack Buck, the keynote speaker at the dedication of our memorial statue on May 15, 1989.  The statue honors the 148 officers of the St. Louis Police Department who have died in the line of duty.  It stands as a reminder that these men performed the greatest act any police officer can do - they gave their lives to protect others.


This book, In the Line of Duty, also honors these men.  It is not a book about death.  Rather, it is a book about service, duty and valor of 148 officers.  There was no great wealth in their chosen profession, nor was there any lasting fame. They had families who loved them and who were waiting for them to return home from work.  They were fathers, husbands, sons and brothers.  And they are special not because they died, but because they served.


I am especially pleased the authors dedicated this book to the families of the deceased officers, for it is they who had to endure the pain of losing a loved one.  It is difficult to read this book and not think of the families of the slain officers, particularly their children.  I want the children to know that their fathers were not only special to them, but also to all of us in the Department, as well as to the citizens of St. Louis.  I also want the children to know that their fathers will not be forgotten - not now, not ever.  They will constantly be in our prayers and serve as an inspiration to us all.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if the list of those who died in the line of duty was complete as it now stands?  That the tragedy of a slain officer would never again be repeated?  For those who have already made this ultimate sacrifice, this book is our tribute.

Colonel Robert E. Scheetz
Chief of Police
1991





FORWARD
Second Edition



“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
George S. Patton, Jr.


This is not a book of mourning.  This is a book of gratitude.  The stories told here deserve more than just our tears.  They deserve our thanks, now and forever.  The 164 lives remembered in these pages are not tragic.  They are heroic and exemplary, because although every life ends in death, only the greatest lives can be defined by service.


And yet to say this does not diminish our sorrow, nor take away the anxiety we all feel, knowing that what has happened before will happen again.  For it is not about their own safety that police officers worry most, it is about the safety of their brothers and sisters in arms.  What wakes us up at night is not a selfish thought, but a social emotion.  It is the nightmare of getting that call, driving to the hospital, talking to another family torn by loss, standing at another gravesite, knowing that another chapter must be added to this book, knowing that one more is too many because one has always been too many.
This book does not exist to remind us of our shared risks, for we do not need reminding.  Even the simple act of getting dressed for work as a police officer symbolizes the danger we face every day.
The first shock comes when we put on our Kevlar vest, and there’s something surreal about it, because we know it is there to protect our vital organs.  The weight of it, the sound of the Velcro straps, it gets our attention immediately.  We put on our duty belt, which is there to accommodate our many tools of survival.  We put on our handcuffs, which are there to restrain those who would do harm to the community.  We grab our radio, which is there to summon our brothers and sisters when we need them most.  We grab our Taser, which is there so we can use the least amount of force necessary, because even those who would harm us are still ours to protect.  We holster our gun, which is there in case everything else fails.  We put on our blue shirt, our badge, and our cap, and with all these small acts, we are making a visible pledge to the community.  We are saying, “I am on duty and I am here to serve.”
The officers remembered here all made that same promise, each in his different time, and each in his different way.  At its most fundamental level, this book tells the story of how each officer kept that promise, regardless of cost.


As a way of saying thanks, learning their stories is the very least we can do.


Colonel D. Samuel Dotson
Chief of Police
2013




The public can purchase the book at the St. Louis Police Library, located at 315 S. Tucker, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The cost of the book is $40.00. Citizens can also find a mail-in order form on our website. The cost of the book plus shipping is $47.00, cash or check.  Make checks payable to the City of St. Louis.