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.

18 comments:

  1. Chief Dotson, I could not agree more.

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  2. Chief, That is some BS (not your story, but the situation)! Our court system is currently a joke, nationwide. If this person was prosecuted correctly the first time, there should be no recurring criminal actions by this individual. All too often, we see a violent offender get arrested and 18 hours later posts bail, and commits another crime before their hearing, IF they show up at all.

    Changes needs to happen. Like, for example, NO BAIL for violent offenders until they are acquitted of charges or prosecuted. And if prosecuted, mandatory extended sentences for violent offenders (20 years for gun crime, 10-15 for Assault 1)

    Just my $.02, take it for what you paid for it.

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  3. Time we treat SCUM as SCUM... and not some "poor misguided child".... as the mollycoddling approach has obviously failed miserably. You act civil, you get treated so, you act like an ANIMAL, expect to be treated like such. Enough!

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  4. It's about time we start holding these judges accountable for their unbelievable actions such as this scumbag getting his bail set at $5,000, even though he was a convicted felon. I believe these judges are up for retention every four years, and if the news media made the public aware of these actions by the courts, they would be looking for a new job.

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  5. I CAN UNDERSTAND THE FRUSTRATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT WHEN IT COMES TO THE "REVOLVING-DOOR" JUSTICE THAT WE SEE HERE IN MISSOURI. IF THOSE WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE TO METE OUT JUSTICE WILL NOT OR CANNOT SEE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THEIR DECISIONS BY DEMANDING INAPPROPRIATELY LOW BAIL FOR THE ACCUSED COULD SEE THAT THESE ACCUSED WILL NOT RETURN FOR THE PRE-TRIAL HEARINGS, THEN, MAYBE WE NEED TO "GO ABOVE'" THEIR HEADS TO THE STATE LEGISLATURE. THE LEGISLATURE CAN AND SHOULD MAKE MANDATORY BAIL AMOUNTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ACCUSED'S CRIMINAL HISTORY. THE MORE CRIMES COMMITTED IN THE PAST, THE HIGHER THE BAIL. THE LEGISLATURE CAN AND SHOULD MAKE MANDATORY SENTENCING "REPEAT OFFENDERS" TO KEEP THEM FROM BEING "ON THE STREETS." THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD INCREASE THE NUMBER OF JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS TO HANDLE THE CASES AND NOT LET THE ACCUSED BE BAILED OUT OF JAIL. THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD ALSO ESTABLISH SPECIAL COURTS (INCLUDING DRUG COURT AND GUN-CRIME COURT) THAT ARE STAFFED BY JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS WHO WOULD BE STRICTLY DEDICATED TO THOSE PARTICULAR CRIMES. MAKE SURE THAT ALL CIRCUIT COURTS WILL HAVE ACCESS TO ALL CASES THAT ARE PENDING FOR ANY ACCUSED. THIS WOULD BE A GOOD START!

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  6. Everyone wants to stomp on Constitutional Rights by take guns out of the good guys hands......they want stricter laws to control guns because of all the "Gun" related crimes....HELLO!!!!!!! Gun violence is on the up rise because Dumb arses like this keep letting them out, Low Bail means they are free to commit "Gun" Crimes, lower sentences, mean they get out and are free to commit "Gun" Crimes........... "Guns" are not the problem it is obviously instances like this, the Judicial System and the lack of prosecution and low bail that is causing our Crime rate not only with "Gun" crimes but all Crimes in general.....current LEO here and we see it all the time, with "Gun" crimes, drug crimes, domestic violence, DWI you name all due to a faulty Judicial system and lazy Judges that have a false sense of entitlement and holier than though mentality. Where is the justice for the communities that suffer over and over again because of overpaid fat judges that are lazy. LEO put their lives in danger on a daily basis to protect and serve to keep a safe and secure community just to be slapped in the face by Judges and Backdoor attorneys. I would love for a hoyty toyty judge and defense attorney to ride in a vehicle with a LEO for two weeks and be outside of the car dealing with what LEO's deal with and see if they are so quick to set low bail or plea down a charge....or let them live in a crime ridden community that suffers from the lack of them doing their duties and see if they still think and feel the way they currently do about low bail, plea bargains and easy penalties....If you are not willing to do your job then GET A KNEW one!!!!!!

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  7. Is it a good thing for our City that, when our police chief feels anger, he believes that he has every right to push professionalism aside?

    The VAST majority of regular SLMPD officers below this Chief know that this isn't how it's done. They know that feelings of anger don't give them a right to push professionalism aside. Sometime, somewhere, it seems that our police chief forgot this. I'm glad that this chief now isn't working a beat in our City, else he might be presented with something or someone that makes him feel anger ...

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    1. I think you're confusing professionalism in action versus professionalism in wording. In other words, he tries to keep his personal blog to a high semblance of professional standard, but this is one such post where he must let his emotions show. Considering the situation at hand, by pushing professionalism aside he is including how he feels and his personal view-points on the subject. By following a standard of professionalism, he wouldn't be including his emotional response nor personal opinion on the subject. He's not suggesting he go out on a rampage and beat the everliving shit out of a couple petty crooks or gangbangers for the pure fact that the courts won't handle them properly, he's merely providing a disclaimer at the beginning that he feels emotionally compromised about this and is going to express such views in the post. He's pushing professionalism aside in a manner that is not harmful or compromising toward the city of St. Louis... Then again, in this city, depending on who is watching and reading, personal views can be dangerous.

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    2. The About section for this blog reads:

      "This is my offical blog as the City of St. Louis' Chief of Police."

      If the Chief of Police publishes something on an "official blog as ... Chief of Police" then that publishing is official.

      Will the Chief please explain whether a SLMPD officer under the Chief's command has "every right to shove professionalism aside" when she/he "feels anger?" If it's good enough for the Chief, then shouldn't it be good enough for the Officer?

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    3. Get informed before you speak. you are sad.

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  8. You read about cases like this all of the time, unfortunately. Too many judges lack a backbone. I don't know if it's apathy, or they're just soft on criminals. Or maybe they just want to move on to the next case. In any case, the courts are a joke.

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  9. Many are complacent until they or their loved ones are the victim of the violent offender, and then it is the Police Department's fault for not putting them away.
    Keep fighting the good fight, well written.

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  11. Chief, Thank you for taking some time to share your thoughts. As a former St. Louis County Police Officer (1998 - 2006) I often saw a HUGE problem with the court system. My fellow police officers and I did our best to put dangerous criminals behind bars, trying to uphold our duty in keeping the community safe, only to find that a release occurred with a "slap" in the face, such as a $500 bond. It totally sets a precedence for people that they can break the laws, harm people and do what they want, causing innocent people to be harmed and live in fear. I often told victims to call the PA's office and tell them how much it matters that the person who caused them harm face the consequences. Honestly, I told them to be "good victims" if you want to see justice. I would personally give them the phone number of the PA's office and assist in the words to use if they were timid - trying to empower these citizen. I truly admire you for speaking up on behalf of the law abiding citizens of St. Louis City and surrounding areas. Your example shows you do care for those in the community and how important it is to put dangerous criminals where they need to be! Stand strong! God bless!

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  12. Chief Dotson, I have had the honor and pleasure to stand with you several times in the past years.
    As you are aware I have always taken great pride in the SLPD. It was a pleasure when I heard that you had become Chief Dotson. I knew that the Officers had a Chief that would fight for them. The people that live and work would have a better life. I am proud to know you. Lloyd D. Bush

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  13. I am the Mother of a victim of the exact situation described so perfectly by Chief Dotson. My son is a proud law enforcement officer. While making a routine traffic stop he learned the driver had a felony warrant. When he approached the vehicle and asked the driver to step out, he instead decided to avoid being arrested and endanger my son's life. Why? I did a background check on him and learned he had already been in prison for a crime almost identical to the one he committed against my son. He had been paroled and then within a few months violated that parole. I wrongly assumed that after attacking another officer he would not be given bond or at least one that was high enough he would not be released. How wrong I was. I was notified by text that he was released in less than four days. Furious I caled the Judges office and demanded to know why he had reduced his bond? Not one person would give me that answer. Maybe the attorneys who represent these animals and the Judges who make these extremely poor decisions would feel differently if it were their child instead of mine. Yes we are proud of our officers and yes we are thankful that they are there when the worst happens, but that is not enough. We all need to SCREAM at the top of our lungs for this judicial system to protect the officers who risk their lives everyday and lose their lives way to often to murderers our Judges set free. If my son had lost his life on that interstate.where would the blame fall? The parents who allowed this child to turn into a angry criminal, the thug who had gotten away with it too many times or the officials we pay our hard earned tax dollars to so they can run a fair judicial system. When there are no consequences nothing will change. I know my son is worth more than that. All the officers are worth more than that. Its time they wake up and do the job they are paid to do.

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