Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chief Dotson's Promotion Ceremony Remarks

I want to thank you for attending tonight's ceremony. 

For me…tonight is the realization of my childhood dream…there are many moments that help define who we are through the course of our lives…and as I look back over my life…there are many special moments…but there’s one single memory that set me on a path for my career…and it happened on December 16th, 1975.  I was 6 years old…in the first grade….and I remember it like it was yesterday…a very starchly pressed…very professional..police officer showed up to speak to my class…it was Officer Friendly….and at that moment I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to be that person…that police officer…and that I was going to be the best one I could.  To commemorate that visit…the entire class received certificates….and I still have that certificate sitting on my desk.  It reminds me everyday of the power…and the responsibility...we as police officers have to shape lives…

I am grateful…and humbled… that the members of our Board of Police Commissioners placed their confidence in me…and are allowing me a turn…to lead this great Department.  I look forward to working with the Board in the coming months…and I assure you…through the changes ahead..our Department will remain focused on our most important objectives…reducing crime…and helping our citizens feel safe. 
I am fortunate to work every day with dedicated officers…and civilian employees…who share a single commitment… to providing the very best police service to our city.

Providing great service takes a combined effort from all of our employees…from the 911 the first responding officers on scenes…from the evidence the forensic scientists who analyze evidence in search of the truth. I will be calling on all of our employees to make sure we are meeting our objectives…and that we continue to focus on the quality of our service moving forward. Leading a department such as this..comes with great responsibility… I promise you…I will not take those responsibilities lightly. 

In my first 30 days on the job…I quickly realized the magnitude of emotion that comes with this position.  Not a night goes by..that I don’t think of the men and women who are out there..answering calls..and putting their lives on the line to make our city safe…It wakes me up at night.

As I thought about what I wanted to share with you tonight…I couldn't help but think about the job we do as police officers.  I truly believe..that being a law enforcement officer is one of the most noble professions. 
It's not a job…it's a calling…and we have each answered that call.  There’s something inside each of us…that made us choose to follow a path...that may not provide us the largest salaries…or the positive recognition…or even the assurance..that we will return home safely to our families at the end of the day. 
We chose it because it’s what our hearts told us to do….and even if we can’t put our finger on it…that special "thing"..that made us all join this profession…we do know that each of us share it…and that's what makes us a family. 

Like most families…there are bumps along the way…and although we may not always agree with one another…we know that the support of our police family is there when crisis strikes…and we know from past inevitably does strike.
We are a unique group of people who become our best.. when times are at their worst…officers come together to support one another..and always do whatever it takes to protect the citizens of this great city…and we will always do that.

But tonight we come together for a different reason…not out of response to tragedy…but in celebration.  As I look in front of me at the officers being promoted…I am excited about the future.
It's a time for change…it’s a chance to reinvent who we are and what our focus is.  The individuals being promoted tonight are a part of that future. 
Combined…these officers represent 384 years of service to the city of St. Louis…384 years….Their experience and knowledge..will be passed down to those working for them…our future leaders.

I ask that each of you being promoted this evening…think about the future..and what you can do to change it.  Use your experience to mentor younger officers….build bridges to the community…and continue to look for ways that we can make our department the very best.   Take the opportunity to use mistakes as teachable moments…and successes as a way to continually set the bar a little higher. 
I read a quote that said…“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it…” WE should autograph our work with excellence.

In closing…and on a personal note…to the employees of the Department…both commissioned and civilian…I hope that I ..can live up to your expectations…that is how I measure success. 
To the community…we will spend every waking moment..of everyday..working to reduce crime…and making St. Louis a great place to live…work...and play.

To the families of officers here tonight…you have my promise.. to do everything make sure your loved one comes home to you at the end of every shift….
And lastly…to my fellow promotees…we have a great deal of work to do…and collectively.. I know we will work to make this Department great…

Thank you and God bless us all….

Tonight's Promotion Ceremony

Tonight will be a memorable event, one that every police chief looks forward to…a badge ceremony. The Department is honoring 17 men and women who were promoted by the Board of Police Commissioners earlier this month. A new Assistant Chief, five Majors, one Captain, two Lieutenants, and eight Sergeants will be honored.

Promotion ceremonies are always an exciting time for the Department. Our new leaders will be officially recognized and receive their new badgesin the presence of fellow employees, citizens, friends and most importantly family. These officers have made great contributions to our Department and our community. Their families have had to sacrifice because their loved ones were called to duty, putting their lives on the line to ensure our safety.

Each was selected after a rigorous testing process, in which they displayed a strong desire to improve the community and the Department. What is most important now is their commitment to leading the Department into the future.

Some of those being honored are tenured veterans with years of experience, taking the next upward step in their careers. Others are being promoted to supervisors for the very first time. Though their years of service may vary, each officer is entering a new phase in their career, and all will play an important role in shaping the future of the department.

Tonight I will stand with my fellow officers. From the rank of Chief to Sergeant, we each now have greater responsibility and expectations. I have nothing but confidence in those being honored.  We have much work to do and I know we will strive to make this department great. I am proud of each of them and offer my most heartfelt congratulations.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Honoring the Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On January 15, 1929, one of the greatest leaders our country has ever known was born, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was born in a time of racial segregation but dared to follow his dreams and became the leader of our modern civil rights movement. 

This year, Dr. King would have turned 84. He was assassinated the year before I was born...but the impact he had on our world is felt more than any other single person I can think of. He was a visionary that to this day has a profound impact on every person in this nation.  His life was far too short.

There are countless speeches and sermons that remind us of Dr. King’s passion and vision.  I, like many of you, have a favorite one. Dr. King said, "We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt…"

For me, as a police officer, this is profound, and by his example we must:

Demand justice, first for the guilty to be punished
Demand that justice protect the innocent, and  
Demand that justice always help the victim.

We must make certain that we protect the rights of all people with the same vigor and determination as Dr. King did. You have my word that we will.

Today, approximately 2,000 people gathered to pay tribute and participate in a civic ceremony inside the Old Courthouse in Downtown.  In fitting homage afterwards, we marched from downtown to Powell Symphony Hall on Grand Avenue.

Despite the freezing temperatures, not one person complained because we each recognized what so many before us had sacrificed to bring us to where we are today.  It was fitting that at the same time we marched to honor Dr. King, President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address from Washington D.C. as he begins his second term as President of the United States of America

On this historic day as President Obama spoke of the journey that lies ahead of us, I marched in unity with others from our great city.  With each step I thought of another quote from Dr. King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Long-Awaited Changes to the FBI's UCR Definition of Rape

Rape is a devastating crime and one of the most personal acts of violence that anyone ever has to endure, male or female. Until this year, the definition of rape had not been updated or revised for 80 years.  The outdated definition left many victims feeling as if the violent crime committed against them was not being taken seriously.

We are happy to report that the FBI has implemented a revised definition of rape within their Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.  Starting on January 1, 2013, the definition has been expanded and will allow law enforcement agencies to report more accurate rape offense data throughout the UCR Program to ensure all applicable rape offenses and all victims of any gender or age are accounted for. 

As a result of the revised definition, the FBI expects to see an increase in reported rape offense data once the law enforcement community makes the necessary reporting changes to collect revised rape statistics.  However, this does not necessarily mean there is an increase in rapes or violent crime in general.  For example, a previously reported act of forcible sodomy will now be reported through the UCR program as rape.

Looking at the 2012 crime statistics, the City of St. Louis would have reported approximately 135 additional rapes if this law had gone into effect on January 1, 2012.  From a statistical stand point, it may appear as if we have a spike in rapes in 2013, this is simply not the case. We will now be reporting the crimes more accurately because the UCR requirements are more inclusive.  This UCR reporting revision does not change the current applicable state laws regarding the various sexual offenses.

We applaud the victim advocacy groups, such as the Women’s Law Project, who worked collaboratively with the FBI to make the changes.  This is a victory for rape survivors in our country and we support the changes wholeheartedly.  

To learn specific information about the changes to the definition you can go to

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Importance of Training in Today's Changing World

This afternoon our 911 dispatchers received a call that no chief ever wants to receive…an active shooter situation in one of our schools.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, you can imagine the sense of dread and fear that spread through our Department.

At approximately 2:00 PM we received a call for a shooting at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts, which is an adult learning institution at 1521 Washington Avenue in Downtown St. Louis.  The first responding officers did an excellent job and were at the school within one minute of the call being dispatched. They secured the premises and located a 45-year old male victim in an office area with a gunshot wound to his torso.  The victim, who is an employee at the school, was transported to a local hospital in serious but stable condition.  

Officers also located a 34-year old male, believed to be the suspect, in a stairwell.  The suspect, who is a student at Stevens Institute, had what is believed to be a self inflicted gunshot wound to the torso.  He was also transported to a local hospital in critical condition.  One 9 mm handgun was recovered at the scene. 

The Institute has an enrollment of approximately 180 students.  All persons in the building were evacuated and there were no other injuries to students or faculty. There has not been an established motive for the shooting at this time.  It is important to remember the investigation is still ongoing and we are limited about how much information we can release. 

There have been many changes in the way law enforcement responds to active shooter calls since the tragedy at Columbine High School.  I want to give credit to the brave men and women of our department who arrived on this scene today and took quick and immediate action.  The department has focused on providing active shooter training courses for all of our police officers since 2010.  We have trained over 1,300 officers in an interactive active shooter course that puts our officers in real life scenarios.  By not teaching this training in a static classroom environment, we hope we are better preparing them for situations such as today’s shooting at the Stevens Institute.

However, simply preparing the officers to respond is not enough.  We must work together to stop this type of violence and remove guns from the street so they do not end up inside our schools. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Visit to Metro High School

This morning I had the privilege of speaking to the students at a city school that helped shape my life and my career...Metro Academic and Classical High School.  It was a humbling experience to say the least.  The energy and potential of the students radiates through the hallways of this institution.  Though the faces of many of the teachers and administrators have changed since I was there, the level of dedication to the student’s success clearly remains.

During a question and answer session, this enlightened group of kids openly discussed the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.  It was quite evident that they understand that no community is safe from this type of tragedy. The questions that I fielded from the students at Metro were not issues I had to face when I attended school there 25 years ago.  They expressed concerns about gun control laws and the prevalence of guns in our society and what we can do about it.  They were clearly concerned about their futures as well as the dangers that exist today.

We all know that the lives that were lost that day in Newtown, Connecticut can never be replaced, but they will not be forgotten.  We must continue to focus on the safety of the schools in our city and on getting guns off the streets.  Making our citizens safe is a priority to our Department and this includes students and teachers inside the schools.

I understand that forming partnerships with our schools and having open dialogue about safety, is necessary in order to be successful in our mission.  Several weeks ago I invited representatives from the St. Louis School System to our weekly CompStat meeting to discuss school safety.  Administrators from the Archdiocese, the St. Louis Public Schools, and the St. Louis Charter Schools sat down with the Department’s command staff to discuss what safety measures they currently have in place and ways our Department might help them improve. 

After the meeting, we were invited to participate in a workshop for teachers and administrators sponsored by the St. Louis Public Schools which is scheduled later this month.  We are working to expand our training to schools in the weeks to come and will remain focused on making students and teachers feel safe. 

Photo: Chief Dotson spent his morning with the students of his alma mater, Metro High School, talking to them about achieving goals and answering questions about his duties as Chief of Police.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Open Forum With My Employees

Yesterday, I had the first of many open conversations with the commissioned and civilian employees of our Department.  I was extremely happy with the standing room only turn out and sincerely hope future meetings are just as successful.  With many changes on the horizon, it is imperative that we continue to communicate regularly and address concerns employees may have about the unknown.  The questions raised at our open forum were thoughtful and covered a broad range of topics from morale to future insurance coverage.  I was reassured that we have some of the most dedicated and passionate employees working for our Department and am excited to be a part of such a great organization.  Working together, we have the opportunity to shape our future and make positive changes…I truly believe that future will be great.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Punishment Must Fit The Crime!

Let me tell you a young police officer’s story.

In October 2010, she and another officer answered a call for “shots fired” and encountered Ronnell Hood.  At the time of the encounter, Mr. Hood was on probation for two different felonies and armed with an assault rifle, which he fired at them.  Extensive training, quick thinking, and some luck allowed the two officers to take Mr. Hood into custody without anyone being injured.

Yesterday, Ronnell Hood received a four year sentence for Armed Criminal Action and five years probation for Assault 1st on these law enforcement officers.

It was not enough.  Not nearly enough.

Every day, our officers place their lives on the line for the safety of our community, just as these two did when they apprehended Mr. Hood.  We always hope that when this type of violent criminal tries to take the life of a police officer that a serious message is sent to the community that this type of action is not tolerated.  Unfortunately, by the sentence passed down in this case, that message was not sent.  A couple of hours after the judge’s decision to allow probation for the Assault 1st on our officers,  another officer was driving down a one-way street in his marked patrol car when the driver of an oncoming vehicle, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, fired several shots at him. Three suspects were in the vehicle, two of them were taken into custody last night and the third was apprehended today. 

I am thankful that no officers were injured in either incident.  I told the young officer this morning that I am disappointed – no, I am angry – about the message that I believe Mr. Hood’s sentence for shooting at her sent.  

Guns in the hands of criminals are dangerous. When officers do good police work and arrest armed thugs, there must be significant consequences … for the thugs.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Open Communication Builds Valuable Relationships

Improving communication within the Department and with the community is one of three priorities moving forward. It is important to me that we communicate regularly and openly about critical issues and the future of the Department. 

In a relatively short time, I have already begun an open dialogue with the leadership organizations within the Department, including the St. Louis Police Officers Association, the Ethical Society, the St. Louis Police Leadership Organization, the Civilian Union and the Department’s new Leadership Team. 

While personal conversations with our leadership groups are very valuable, I understand the importance of meeting with our employees face to face. The commissioned and civilian employees are the backbone of our Department.  They ensure that we deliver the very best in police services to our citizens each day and remain focused on making our citizens feel safe by reducing crime.

I have invited all of our employees to an Open Forum on Wednesday, January 9th at Police Headquarters. 

This forum will give employees time to provide ideas and feedback directly to our new Leadership Team.  Strengthening the relationships within our organization is critical to our success as we prepare for the changes ahead.  This forum will give us the chance to openly discuss the future and participate in constructive dialogue about a shared vision for the future.

I am always open to new and innovative ideas that will increase our organization’s efficiency, improve morale and the way we do our jobs.  My hope is that this forum, and those that follow, will provide our employees the opportunity to provide me with feedback as we begin to mold the future for our Department.

I’m looking forward to having similar dialog with our citizens at open community forums in the near future.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My First Day

Today is my first official day serving as your Chief of Police. Being selected to lead this Department is extremely humbling. It is an exciting time, and I am looking forward to the journey that lies ahead.

For the past 200 years, the history of our Department has been written one day at a time. We are rich in tradition and will continue to honor our past and those that served before us. The New Year can be nostalgic, but it is also a time to make positive changes and look to the future. 

On January 1, 2013, we start the next chapter and I am proud to be a part of that. The coming year will be an exciting time filled with change and an opportunity to re-invent ourselves.  There are three very important cornerstones that will be priorities for the Department as we move forward.

First, we will focus on reducing crime and making our neighborhoods safe. This has been, and always will be, our number one priority. We will continue to deliver the very best in police services and we will invest in technology to help us in our crime fighting initiatives. 

Second, we will work diligently to make the citizens of St. Louis feel safe.  We will accomplish this by proactively addressing crime and finding solutions to challenges as they arise in our neighborhoods.  Working together we can find long-term solutions to important issues.  

Lastly, we will focus on improving communication within the Department and with the community.  Providing timely information on important issues as they arise is critical in building trust.  Strengthening the relationship between our Department and the citizens of St. Louis is very important for our future success.  Communication will play a key role in this process.  

As we prepare for the changes ahead it is important that we not lose sight of the Department's core values; service, leadership, integrity, and fair treatment to all.  These core values are the basis for every decision we make.      

It has always been my belief that even when something is working, there is always room for improvement. You have my commitment to work every day to make the Department the best it can be for our employees and the community and to continue to look for ways to achieve greatness.