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