Tuesday, December 31, 2013

22nd Annual New Year's Eve Candlelight Service: My Remarks

In May of 1991, Jeanette Culpepper’s life changed forever. Her son Curtis was murdered, taken from her when he was just 22-years old.
That same year, Ms. Culpepper decided to do something with her grief. What she did was extraordinary. 

She founded "Families Advocating Safe Streets" and created a new tradition for St. Louis: a New Year' Eve candlelight vigil, held in memory of victims of homicide.

Ms. Culpepper and  "Families Advocating Safe Streets" never stop working and never stop fighting to raise awareness, to break the cycle of crime and to reduce violence in our community.

This year we remember 120 people, whose families and friends are now facing the same unthinkable tragedy as Ms. Culpepper – losing a loved one to senseless violence.

We remember Clara Jean Walker, 51-years old, her life taken by a stray bullet just this week. We remember 9-year old Tyrese Short, his life ended before it could really begin, also because of a stray bullet. We remember Khadra Muse, Saaed Abdulla and Bernice Soloman-Redd, all three murdered by gunfire in the workplace they shared on Cherokee Street. And we remember Mon Rai, the Bhutanese immigrant killed while working at a 7-Eleven.

This year in total, we remember 98 men and 22 women, all taken in acts of violence.

Although the City of St. Louis has experienced a dramatic decline in homicides over time, going from 267 in 1993 down to 120, we still must remember that one homicide victim is one too many. 

I promise you, everyone here today is committed to bringing that number down. I know I am. I know you are. And I know the best hope we have is the hope we see in this room today…the combined power of an engaged public working together with law enforcement, toward a goal that everyone can agree with.

I also know that our strategies are getting better, our methods more sophisticated. Hotspot policing is no longer a theory or an experimental technique. It's now the way we do business, all day, every day. When violence broke out in College Hill last winter, we put hotspot policing to the test, and the results proved its effectiveness.

We've got more changes coming for the future. Our district re-organization plan, scheduled to take effect in January, will streamline patrol operations in the city and put more cops in the places where they are most needed.  And even though we didn't get a "gun docket" this year, you better believe we're going to keep fighting until we get one. Why? Because armed offenders are a serious threat to public safety, and the public deserves a court system that takes armed offenders seriously!

At the same time, we're fully committed to prevention…to stopping violent crime before it starts.  We do this though youth outreach programs and community partnerships, and by supporting efforts to show young people the value of life and the path to a peaceful, productive future.

We do this through initiatives like the Police Athletic League, the Police Explorers, the "Do the Right Thing" program and the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, to name a few. The common goal behind them all: to provide positive activities for our youth, teaching them structure, self-confidence, the value of hard work and the value of a human life.

I want to say "thank you" to the Police Commanders here this evening. I invited them to join us today, to send a message both to the many peaceful members of our community, and to the few who disturb our peace with violent crime. 

That message is clear: We are many, we are united and we are relentless.  If you're thinking about committing a crime in St. Louis, we're trying to stop you. If you've already committed a crime and victimized one of our citizens, we're coming to find you. If you're a peaceful, law-abiding person, we're here to protect you. If you're a victim, we're here to help you.

And most importantly - as anyone can see just by looking around this room - we are not alone.  More than ever, thanks to the courage of people like Jeanette Culpepper, the police and the people stand together.

I’d like to thank Ms. Culpepper and Families Advocating Safe Streets for sponsoring this candlelight vigil, and for everything they do. Thank you.

Delivering my remarks at the 22nd Annual New Year's Eve Candlelight Service

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering Newtown: One Year Later

Every generation looks back on the mistakes of the past with a mixture of confusion, sorrow, anger and shame. Every generation sees things that its parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could not see, and sits in judgment of them.

Standing here in 2013, we have much to reflect on.

We look back to the days before the civil rights movement, and we ask ourselves, "Why did it take so long to fix something that was so obviously broken?"

We look back to the days before women won the right to vote, and we ask ourselves, "What was wrong with the world back then, and why did it take so long for things to change?"

In many different ways, across many different issues, we look back...and we find it hard to understand why people in the past so often failed to do the right thing. We wonder why they were so slow to correct their terrible mistakes.

In many different ways, across many different issues, we think we have the privilege of feeling superior. We get to stand here in the modern world, pretending like we've figured it all out, pretending like we don't have our own mistakes to be ashamed of.

But we haven't figured it all out, have we? Because if we had, if we didn't have our own mistakes to be ashamed of, we wouldn't be here today…marking this tragic anniversary, this day when, one year ago, 20 children and 7 adults were senselessly murdered by gunfire in the town of Newtown, Connecticut. 

No, in the face of such undeniable facts...we don't get to pretend, and we don't get to feel superior.  

True maturity is what happens when we remember that, in the eyes of the future, we will be the ones who failed. We will be the ones THEY look back on, wondering why we didn't get it right.

What will our great-grandchildren say to us then? They will ask what we did to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook from happening. They will ask why we failed. They will ask how any society could tolerate the kind of violence that takes children from their parents and threatens the innocence of childhood.

They will demand to know what lessons we learned, and what actions we took.

What will we say to them? How will we answer the children of the future, when it is their turn to sit in judgment of us?

And how will they ever forgive us, if we don't find a way to correct the mistakes that made this massacre possible, if we don't do everything in our power to prevent the next one from happening?  

For that alone can make us worthy of forgiveness.

27 empty chairs, representing each of the victims that lost their lives one year ago today in Newtown. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What the Post-Dispatch Didn't Tell You

Last night, the Metropolitan Police Department responded to late afternoon questions asked by a Post-Dispatch reporter relative to an article in today’s edition of the Post-Dispatch.

Below you will read our response.

For whatever reason, the Post-Dispatch chose not to include our side of the encounter or the fact that contact with officers was approximately 20 minutes.

Below is a summary of what occurred when Cortez Cooper visited the Records Division -

Today, Cortez Cooper went to the Records Division here at Police Headquarters to obtain a records check.  In doing so, Cortez Cooper stated his identity as part of the process to obtain the records information he was seeking. Per department policy, the individual requesting the records check is processed through the criminal justice system to determine if they have any outstanding warrants. During this time, Cortez Cooper never informed or showed the clerk who was assisting him the court order.

When the clerk ran Cortez Cooper's information, outstanding warrants for Cecil Cooper were revealed (Cecil Cooper has been arrested using Cortez Cooper's name and birthdate, so his name serves as an alias for Cortez Cooper). During the investigation, 4th District Officers were summoned to the Records Division to arrest the wanted suspect. 

Upon arrival to Police Headquarters, the officers went to the Records Division to conduct their investigation of the wanted suspect. The officers explained to the suspect why he was being detained, and at no time did he indicate to officers that he was in possession of a court order that would verify his true identity. While the officers were talking to the suspect, his mother was allowed access to the Records Division to check on him. The mother encountered the officers and the suspect and asked what was going on.  As the officers explained the situation to the mother, she told the officers that the suspect was Cortez Cooper, not Cecil Cooper.  The mother also stated that Cortez had a court order and identification in his possession to prove that he was not the wanted suspect, Cecil Cooper.  The officers asked Cortez Cooper why he had not revealed that information to them, and he did not have an answer.  Once the court order and identification of Cortez Cooper was presented to the officers he was released.

This entire process took 20 minutes for officers to ascertain Cortez Cooper's identity.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Memorial Highway Dedication Luncheon Honoring Sgt. Jeffry Kowalski & P.O. Daryl Hall: My Remarks

 Thank you all for being here to mark this very special occasion. 

One of the interesting things about being Chief of Police is how often it makes me feel proud of other people and humbled in myself.

The simple fact is: this job puts me in contact with a lot of heroes and a lot of heroism every day and today is no exception. 

These signs honor two men who knew where they were going, who had the courage, who took the risks and who made the ultimate sacrifice in public service.

So as you drive down the highway - surrounded by the noise, the bustle, the billboards and the pressing need to figure out where you are going - please…pause and take a moment to notice a sign bearing the names of Sergeant Jeffrey Kowalski and Police Officer Darryl Hall.

These two officers joined a list that is always too long and never to be forgotten, adding their names to the names of our fallen: names like Merriweather, Strehl, Stanze, Barwick, Sloan, Branson, Jerabek, Brown, Moore and Haynes.

As Patton reminds us: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank god that such men lived."

Today our purpose is simply to show our thanks, and express our humility for the way Kowalski and Hall lived.

And that is why we honor them with a dedication to something that is both public, and permanent. 

Public…like the nature of their service. Permanent…like the light of their shining example.

Thank you Sergeant Kowalski, thank you Officer Hall and thank you to the families who shared them with us.

And thank all of you for being here and caring enough to show these men a small part of the thanks they deserve.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Macy's Festival of Lights: My Remarks

Thank you, and trust me when I say…this is a happier occasion than some of the ones you find on a police chief's schedule. I'm glad to be here for the official start of the holiday season in St. Louis

I'm glad because this is something that brings people together. Whatever you believe, however you worship, whichever days on the calendar you celebrate, there's something in this season for everybody to enjoy. 

It doesn't matter which holidays you celebrate or which is your favorite. Maybe it's Thanksgiving, maybe it's Christmas, maybe it's Hanukah or Kwanzaa, maybe it's New Year's, or maybe you just like getting a little time off from work.What matters is: this time of the year is supposed to be nice, and people are supposed to be nice to each other.

Unfortunately…not everyone gets the message, and that's why we have the police.

There are a few Grinches out there looking to steal Christmas…or anything else they can get their hands on, and it's important that we do our best to stop them.

While you're out there shopping, ice skating, sledding or just driving back and forth to visit loved ones, we'll be out there trying to make sure you stay safe and feel safe.

We can't do it alone. To succeed, our anti-Grinch initiative also needs YOUR help as citizens.

You can accomplish a lot just by using common sense:
  • Don't leave your valuables in plain sight when you park your car.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Don't use illegal drugs.
  • Have fun WITHOUT guns.
  • Be considerate to others.
There are no guarantees in life, but if you follow those rules…you can avoid most of the trouble that's out there.

For everything else, you have the police department. And we never take the day off.

Finally, I should mention that in law enforcement we have a lot of information-sharing partnerships these days, so…when it comes to keeping the list of who's naughty and nice, let's just say we remain in very close contact with our North Pole source. 

So try to stay off the naughty list.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone in St. Louis.

Fire Chief Jenkerson, Santa and Chief Dotson at the Macy's Festival of Lights 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Sad Truth That I Wish Was Fiction: Another Chief's Rant

For the sake of professionalism, I try very hard to keep my emotions in check.  As the Chief of a major metropolitan police department, I feel it’s part of my job to project a sense of calm and composure.  I work hard at that, and most days I succeed.

Today is NOT one of those days.  Today I feel it’s my duty NOT to remain calm and composed.  Today I feel anger and have every right to shove professionalism aside.

Let me tell you a story, because I think there’s a good chance you'll agree with me.  And sadly its non-fiction.

Back in 2006, a sixteen year-old boy began his criminal career by starting right at the top.  He committed a couple of big-boy crimes: Assault 1st with Serious Physical Injury and Armed Criminal Action.  In layman’s terms, that means he attacked a fellow human being with a weapon, and seriously hurt them in the process. 

In 2007, as if to prove the first time was no isolated incident, he went out and got himself arrested AGAIN for the crime of Assault 1st.  That case took place outside the City of St. Louis, and for some reason was never prosecuted.

Almost three years passed before he was certified as an adult and convicted of his 2006 crime, following a plea-bargain that reduced his charge to Assault 2nd and Armed Criminal Action.  He was back on the street just three years later.

In 2012, this man, now a full-grown menace at 22 years old, was AGAIN arrested for Assault 1st and Armed Criminal Action, and for Discharging a Firearm at/from Motor Vehicle.  In everyday terms, that means he was involved in a drive-by shooting. 

How long was he held after that arrest?  Less than two days.  There were problems with the credibility of witnesses in this case, and the chances for a successful prosecution were unfortunately low.

Still, the key fact remains: this criminal was arrested three times for Assault 1st, and convicted only once of a lesser crime.  Perhaps now you can see why I’m upset, but just wait until you hear the WHOLE STORY.

This year, the man was arrested AGAIN.  By now you can already guess that the crime involved guns, because…of course it did.  He was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon.

Judge Theresa Burke set his bail at $5,000 / 10%.  In plain language, that means all it took to get him out and put him back on the street was $500!

Not surprisingly, he made bail and never looked back.  A few weeks later, he failed to appear in court as scheduled and became a fugitive.  Ironically, THIS is what finally motivated the courts to raise his bail to $40,000 / cash only.  Don’t even get me started on the terrible message it sends.  Actually, do get me started…because the message sent appears to be: if you repeatedly commit violent crimes, the courts might just let you out for $500 cash bond.  But if you do something serious like make a judge angry by not showing up in court, THEN they might FINALLY get tough and set your bail at $40,000.

Does that seem upside down to you?  Me too.

I wish I could say this was surprising.  It’s not.  I wish I could say this was unusual. It’s not.  I wish I could tell you this story was fiction.  Tragically, it’s not.

Who were his accomplices in the commission of this crime?  Only the usual suspects: complacency and bureaucracy in the courts, lack of accountability in sentencing and setting bail, lack of effective tools like a “gun docket” dedicated to dealing with this kind of violent crime.

I don’t understand how anyone can hear a story like this and say no to changing the system. I don’t understand how anyone can hear a story like this without wanting to reform the way we handle gun crimes. And I definitely don’t understand how anyone can defend a status quo that allows things like this to happen.

Friday, October 18, 2013


There are few things more basic to the Police Department’s operations than the manner in which we divide our city into police districts.  More than just lines on a map, the district boundaries have a profound impact on things such as leadership, organizational structure, staffing, available resources, budgets, response time, neighborhood identity and radio traffic management.

Since the last major district boundary change over 50 years ago, the Department has followed a model of nine patrol districts equally divided among three patrol areas.  When that arrangement began in the 1960’s, it worked just fine for a city with 750,000 residents and upwards of 2,200 sworn police officers.  Yet as we all know, times change and circumstances change with them.  The city now has 320,000 residents and around 1,250 sworn police officers. 

From every crucial point of view – customer service, officer safety, organizational efficiency, etc. – the old nine-district model no longer makes good, practical sense and there is now a pressing need to change it.

Fortunately for us, the needed changes are not difficult to see.  Over the last nine months, the best and brightest from our department have been working on a plan to redistrict our city. They have put hard work and thoughtful consideration into a meaningful plan. The time has come to reorganize our patrol districts in a way that reflects the current reality. 

The solution is a transition from nine districts to six, in a way that preserves the three-area model. Our city will still have a North Patrol Division, a Central Patrol Division and a South Patrol Division.  Under the proposed changes each of these divisions will contain two districts instead of the current three.

The new boundaries have not been drawn arbitrarily.  A careful study of calls for police service has been done to create new district boundaries. This was a data-driven analysis that scientifically and fairly apportion police resources throughout the city.  Freed from the constraints of an outdated system, officers will be strategically sent to the places where they are most needed.  This, along with the staff efficiencies gained by consolidated command structures, would mean more officers on the street for longer periods of time.

And most importantly, the ever-improving technique of hot-spot policing will combine with the new patrol plan to make sure officers are deployed more strategically than ever before.  We’re not just talking about more police presence on our streets.  We’re talking about a police presence that’s smarter, better and more effective.

Of course we understand it’s not all about numbers and tactics, it’s also about change.  The citizens of St. Louis have had 50 years to grow attached to the old system and any change will naturally come with questions.  That is why we’ll be providing a forum, not only to explain the proposed changes to the public, but also to gather feedback from anyone with an opinion to share. As the process develops and as specific plans begin to take shape, information will be shared with all those involved.

Why is that important?  Because as I’ve said since my first day as Police Chief, the art of public safety isn’t just about making people safer, it’s also about helping people feel safe and sharing the reality of the city we live in.

I wouldn’t support redistricting unless I knew it was carefully explored, developed and achieved all of our goals. Quite simply, this is a good idea and the time has come.

To see Chief Dotson's Redistricting Presentation, visit www.slmpd.org and click on story 4.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Attorney General Koster's Urban Crime Summit, September 18: My Remarks

Let me begin by thanking Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for his leadership and for putting this summit together. Keeping our communities safe takes hard work, vision and the fortitude to stand firm on the tough issues.  
Our first two days in Kansas City were informative, insightful and provided us with an opportunity to share some great information...but it’s nice to be home in St. Louis and it’s nice to be here in this beautiful new facility. Thank you, SLU Law School.
To those of you here today, whatever your interest in the topics is -- maybe you're in the business of public safety and criminal justice, maybe you're a scholar or a student, or maybe you're a concerned citizen -- whatever it is that brought you here, I cannot help but share with you the value of the conversations that occurred over the past two days in Kansas City.  
In Kansas City, we were hosted by Mayor Sly James and Chief Daryl Forte. Chief Forte will join us for tomorrow's session. He is tending to the loss of an officer from their police family. Mayor James, the Metropolitan Police Department’s thoughts and prayers are with you and your officers in Kansas City.
Let me also acknowledge Mayor Francis Slay for everything he's done to make this day possible. As you know, I've been Police Chief for a little more than nine months, and to have a symposium of this caliber to draw from, as we form our plans and strategies for further crime reduction, well, it's just incredible.
Let me also take a moment to recognize the speakers taking part in this summit. They represent the marquee names in our field - both in the theory and practice of law enforcement. If they made baseball cards for the superstars of crime reduction, every kid would want to collect names like Ray Kelly, Bill Bratton, Frank Zimring and Rick Rosenfeld.
I can't express their importance in our field any better than that.
In St. Louis, when we talk about crime reduction, we are talking about how to follow up on a pattern of success.
Twenty years ago, in 1993, St. Louis reported 267 homicides.  Last year, that number was 113.  That represents a reduction of 58%.  Fifty-eight percent!  In twenty years!
That decrease challenges us to find more ways to continue the reduction of murders. It challenges us to be more impactful and to leverage a combination of enforcement, social programs and community involvement.
Just for perspective, since the Great Depression, the lowest number of homicides in the City of St. Louis was in 1943 with 50 murders. We are much closer to that lower end of the range than the 267 murders in 1993.
Since 2006, crime in the City of St. Louis has seen more than a 40 percent reduction. We should be encouraged by our success, but also know that there is much more work to be done.
Let me give you some quick facts about violent crime in the City of St. Louis. So far year to date, we have seen:

1,686 victims of aggravated assaults with a firearm,
813 robbery victims with a firearm,
63 homicides committed with a firearm and
448 arrests for weapons charges.
That equals 3,010 crimes year to date committed with guns.

Last year, the City of St. Louis witnessed 113 homicides. That is too many. Indeed, one is too many…because we're not talking about numbers, we're talking about human lives.
To address this violence, we value our partnerships with federal agencies. A special thank you to Attorney General Koster for your leadership and support of the veto of House Bill 436, which would have clearly tied the hands of police officers throughout Missouri.
Over the next two days, we will talk about a gun docket that the judiciary here in the City of St. Louis rejected. We will not give up on public safety or ever accept mediocrity or complacency. We will seek support in Jefferson City to give direction to the Circuit Court.
We recognize that we can not do this alone. We will never limit ourselves to crime fighting alone and we will involve ourselves in the business of relationship-building.  
That's why we spend time and resources coaching youth sports through the Police Athletic League and send Academy recruits to read to school children through a program called Books and Badges.
This four day conversation is just the beginning of a new era of open candid dialogue about issues that impacts all of us...personally, economically, and socially... That's what we all believe, and that belief is what defines our mission.

Thank you all for caring enough to be here today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Courage, Wisdom & Leadership

Last week, by the narrowest of margins, the Missouri General Assembly avoided an action that would have made a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and made our jobs as police officers nearly impossible.
I have written and spoken publicly about my strong opposition to House Bill 436. Indeed, so has almost every other law enforcement leader and public safety official in the State of Missouri. Yet, on the evening of September 11, Missouri stood a vote away from overriding Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill.

Two extraordinary public servants, Senate President Tom Dempsey and Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, demonstrated the courage, wisdom and moral leadership to look past any short-term political expedience and did what was best for the citizens of Missouri. They voted not to override the Governor's veto of House Bill 436, and chose instead to start again from the beginning, in order to give Missouri a different, better bill.

Courage, wisdom and moral leadership.  That's what this State needed last Wednesday, and in the commendable action of Senators Dempsey, Richard, and their colleagues, that's exactly what it got.

As a police officer and as a citizen, let me simply say, Thank you!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Open Letter to Missouri Legislators

Dear Legislator,  

On September 11, 2013, the General Assembly will convene to consider overriding Governor Nixon’s veto of House Bill No. 436.

My purpose in writing you is simple: I wish to express my strong opposition to this bill, and I wish to implore you – as a fellow citizen and a fellow public servant - not to lend your vote to the override effort.

I am aware that you have already been sent a similar letter by my friend and colleague, Chief Tim Fitch of the St. Louis County Police Department.  Colonel Fitch and I share a common vision about what constitutes a reasonable range of debate on most issues.  It says a great deal,  that different though our challenges may be, Tim Fitch and I both consider HB 436 to stand outside that reasonable range. 

There are many competing ideas about the best way to protect the Second Amendment.  For my part, I have always believed that the right to bear arms for law-abiding citizens requires a robust effort on the part of law enforcement to keep guns out of the wrong hands.  A key part of that effort is the nexus of cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies – a system built up with great patience over the years, in order to deal with the small percentage of habitual and violent offenders who commit most of our society’s worst crimes.

House Bill 436 mounts a direct attack on that cooperation, by making it literally illegal for the police to work with our partners at the next level of government.  In so doing, it threatens an erosion of hard-won gains in the reduction of crime and the improvement of public safety.  Indeed, as far as I can see, the only category of gun owner who would truly benefit from this bill is that of previously convicted felons. Why?  Because that is the only category of gun owner who realistically has anything to fear from the gun cases in which local police cooperate with the federal government.

I simply cannot believe there is anyone in this conversation who wants to see more guns in the hands of felons, so it appears that is just one more among the many unintended consequences contained in this unfortunate bill.

In many opinions of those directly impacted by HB 436, it goes too far, and does too much.  It contains flagrantly provocative features that all but guarantee a constitutional challenge, which must end with the law being overturned in whole or in part.  Worst of all, by the very nature of its extremism, this bill makes the act of defending the Second Amendment harder for the millions of Missourians who wish to fight for their gun rights with moderation and reason.

Far from being a defeat, the Governor’s veto is a golden opportunity.  It gives you and the entire legislature a second chance to design a better bill.

I cannot say it better than my friend already has.  Please listen to Chief Fitch when he urges that “Your local law enforcement agencies are depending on you to help us keep our communities safe.”

I would simply add one thing: reasonable supporters of the right to bear arms are also depending on you to help give them a bill that can stand the test of constitutional scrutiny, a bill that favors their cause with the light of reason and perhaps most of all, a bill that puts the long-term protection of the Second Amendment ahead of the short-term concerns of partisan politics and symbolism.

Your friends in the profession of law enforcement would be only too happy to help you craft such a bill.

                                                                        Very truly yours,


                                                                        D. Samuel Dotson, III
                                                                        Chief of Police

Friday, August 30, 2013

Message to "Ride of the Century" Motorcyclists

During the weekend of August 30 to September 1, 2013, up to 3,000 motorcycles will congest various areas within the St. Louis region for a gathering and group ride called the “Ride of the Century 2013”.  In previous years, this event included thousands of local and out-of-state participants – many using modified “sport” or “stunt” bikes to perform dangerous stunts on public roadways, block traffic and taunt law enforcement.

In a blatant disregard for their safety and the safety of others, motorcyclists commonly perform stunts in the middle of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, creating hazardous driving conditions and often causing accidents. It is common for riders to block highways as well as travel the wrong way on roadways and ride through grassy medians to evade law enforcement. During the 2012 event, group participants blocked I-70 in the downtown area in order to perform various stunts, unlawfully hindering interstate traffic.

Throughout the Labor Day weekend, law enforcement expects an increase in calls for service and on-view incidents connected to this event, as participants travel throughout the area. Motorcycles without proper registration and/or insurance, or motorcycles involved in the commission of other vehicle related violations will require the arrest of the operator as well as the towing of the motorcycle.

In an effort to combat this reckless and dangerous behavior, officers from St. Louis City, St. Louis County and troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol will work together along with the Missouri Department of Transportation in a coordinated approach to keep riders and the motoring public safe.

Bottom-line, the St. Louis region is a great place to live. It welcomes groups of all types to enjoy all the city has to offer in a responsible and safe way without putting others at risk.

The message to motorcyclists visiting St. Louis this weekend: welcome, but obey the laws of the road.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Organizing for Action: Gun Violence Prevention Rally: My Remarks

It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to keep silent on this issue, but it wouldn’t be the right thing. As a police chief, nothing requires me to make public comments about controversial issues like gun control. Nothing except my conscience; which in this case, tells me that the message is far more important than any risk of political fallout or backlash.

Let me make one thing very clear from the beginning: just like most Americans, most Missourians, and most St. Louisans, I support the 2nd Amendment. I believe responsible citizens have a right to reasonable gun ownership for hunting, sporting and legitimate self-defense. I’ve always believed that.

But let me tell you something else I believe: we must be very careful when it comes to defining who is responsible and what is reasonable. And over the past 10 years or so, when it comes to guns and gun violence, I’m afraid we as a nation have been drifting away from both responsibility and reason.

Let me use an analogy to explain exactly what I mean. We all believe that people should have the right to go where they please, to travel freely from place to place, right? But that doesn’t mean we let just anyone operate a 2,000 pound vehicle without first proving they can do so responsibly by obtaining a driver’s license, an equipment safety inspection, insurance, etc. It also doesn’t mean we let people drive on city streets in 200mph race cars or armored military vehicles that bear no relationship to their legitimate travel needs.

Well, what I believe about guns is not too different from what I believe about cars: people have a right to buy them and use them, but because both cars and guns have the potential to be dangerous, both rights should be subject to some minimal conditions. We expect people to reach a certain age before they drive, we expect them to pass a test and we expect them to submit proof of identity. If they have a condition which prevents them from driving safely, we don't let them drive. And even the best drivers aren't allowed to run around in Formula 1 race cars or Abrams tanks.

All I ask with respect to guns is that we start treating them with half as much caution as we treat cars. If people want to own a gun, they should be required to submit proof of identity and pass a basic background check. If people have a condition - such as a serious mental illness or a history of violence - which prevents them from using guns safely, we should not let them buy one. And because there is no reasonable use or need for such things, people should not be allowed to own extreme, military-grade armaments.

Simply put: I want to see a decent minimum level of precaution about who gains access to guns, along with a modest limit on the intensity of the firepower available. And by the way…here too, I find myself in agreement with most Americans, most Missourians, and most St. Louisans. Poll after poll has shown that background checks are a common sense policy supported by the vast majority of American, 90% in fact, all across the political spectrum.

Consider this amazing fact: Between 1982 and 2012, there were 62 mass shootings in the United States. 49 of them involved legally acquired weapons. Now think about how many of those attacks were committed by people with a prior history of mental illness, people who recently discussed attack plans or made threats, or engaged in a variety of other "red flag" behaviors. Think about how many lives we might have saved, just by preventing those. Think about what we owe to the people we failed to protect. Think about what we must do for those in the future who expect our protection, and deserve to get it.

Looking back at the history of gun violence, looking back at major incidents like ABB, Tucson, Aurora, Newton, looking at the school shooting in Georgia just this week, how can it be controversial to say: “We as a society should have done better. We as a society must do better now?”

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t it be controversial to look at the current, unacceptable state of affairs and…simply accept it?

Well I don’t accept it, and for me this isn't just a professional opinion, it's also a personal stand. I’ve seen too much since becoming a police officer. I think about all the homicides and the suicides a cop sees, most of them made possible by guns. I think about all the aggravated assaults – more than 8,000 with firearms in this city during the past five years. I also think about the close calls and the near-misses which don't always make the paper. I think about the man who attacked two of our officers with an AK-47. I think about the 15-year old who used a handgun to commit a carjacking last month. I think about more horror stories than anyone should have to know, and more than I have time to tell on this page.

What we want isn’t controversial. What we want is just common sense. Even if we do nothing more than improve the background check process, we can all keep our rights and increase our safety. We don’t have to choose between one and the other, and we don't have to accept the status quo.

We can do better.

                              Organizing for Action: Gun Violence Prevention Rally, August 22, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

TRI-ARC Award: What It Means To Me

Today, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reached an important milestone in its long history of growth and organizational development, and I am very proud to be a part of it. We received an honor shared by only 10 other law enforcement agencies in the world* – the CALEA “TRI-ARC” Award.

Let me explain what this means, and why it’s important.
Many professions rely on accreditation systems to help them assure quality and establish industry-wide best practices. Schools and colleges seek accreditation, so do hospitals, engineering firms and information technology providers, to name just a few among many.

Law enforcement is no exception. Like other cutting-edge professions, we use the accreditation process to help us grow and develop, so we can provide better service to our clients: the citizens. The best source of guidance and the highest set of standards in the world are provided by the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, otherwise known as CALEA.

CALEA offers three separate and distinct types of accreditation.  One is for law enforcement agencies, another is for public safety training academies and a third is for public safety communications.

The first step for us was completed 2007, when we received our law enforcement agency accreditation, and again when we were re-accredited in 2010.  In 2012 we went further, and our police academy earned its public safety training accreditation.  Now, in 2013, we have completed the third and final element as our 911 call and dispatch division becomes an accredited public safety communications center. 

Only agencies that earn and maintain all three types of accreditation get the honor of being TRI-ARC winners. Our membership in that club becomes official today.

This is a big deal.  It means our citizens can be confident that we are following the best standards and practices available in the law enforcement industry.  It means we have faced and will continue to face the kind of rigorous, independent assessment of policies and practices that comes with accreditation.  It means we are committed to a process of ongoing improvements, professional evolution and organizational development.  It means we are in the business of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

For us that meaning is reflected in visible symbols like TRI-ARC award and the CALEA emblems that decorate our police cars. 

I hope citizens can see the same meaning in the service we provide, and the work we do on a daily basis.
Congratulations SLMPD. I’m proud of you, achieving and maintaining this status is no easy task.

* I’m also proud to note that one of the other 10 TRI-ARC award-winning agencies is the St. Louis County Police Department. Hat tip to my friends, Chief Tim Fitch and retired Chief Jerry Lee. You beat us to the finish line by a couple years, but it's really the St. Louis region that wins.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Sad Reality of The World We Live In: A Chief’s Rant

The first thing a police chief does after waking up in the morning is find out what happened in their city while they were asleep. This morning was no exception.  What I discovered on this particular day made me sad, angry and frustrated, but even more so, made me question who is helping us change the culture.

There are many things in my life which I can control, however there are many more which I cannot.  Last night was one of those nights that I could not control.

Before going to sleep last night, I read my friend Tim Fitch’s blog. Tim, who is Chief of Police in St. Louis County, blogged about “How Not to Become a Homicide Victim”…one of the things we preach daily in law enforcement.  His tips: don’t sell drugs, don’t carry an illegal gun, remove yourself from abusive relationships and help those with mental illness receive treatment.  It made sense, it was common sense, and I agreed with Chief Fitch and his thoughts.

When I woke up this morning, I thought about his message in a different light after learning about the behavior of a 15-year old overnight.  It started about 2:20 in the morning when a young man, armed with a handgun, approached a vehicle owner and ordered the owner to lie on the ground while he drove off in the victim’s Cadillac.  Minutes later, officers observed the 15-year old suspect in the stolen Cadillac.  This began a nearly 20 minute pursuit of a 15-year old armed robber.  The suspect, with no regard for human life and with reckless disregard for the wellbeing of anyone else including himself, drove erratically and recklessly; even striking a police officer’s vehicle.  Our training and tactics teach officers to use a variety of methods to end pursuits like this one.  I must commend the officers for their professionalism, their composure and their desire to end this pursuit as quickly and safely as possible.  Those skills, along with the use of spike strips to deflate the suspect’s tires, ended this dangerous fleeing safely.

When the vehicle finally came to rest, the suspect jumped from the vehicle in an effort to run from officers.  Officers used a Taser to finally subdue the young man and arrest him.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries to the officers, to citizens or to the suspect.  The 15-year old suspect has been charged with Robbery 1st, Assault 2nd on a Law Enforcement Officer, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Property Damage and Resisting Arrest.

And to answer the question before you ask: this was not his first foray into the area of criminal enterprises. Somebody should have seen this young man was on a course that needed correction. Where were his parents? Where are his parents? Where were the courts? Where was anyone?

Here is the harsh reality of the world we live in: last night, a 15-year old armed with a gun and a 2,000 pound vehicle led police officers on a winding pursuit with little to no regard for anyone’s wellbeing, or for that matter, their life.  Where is the community’s outrage? Where are the interventions? This is just one of a countless litany of crimes where we have to stop and ask ourselves: is this the world we want, but more importantly, what are we willing to do to change it?