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
, and for some reason was never prosecuted. St. Louis
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.