Thursday, April 18, 2013

Failure

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate failed the American people. I am extremely disappointed in their actions, and I’m not the only one. They failed not only the people of St. Louis, but those in Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson when they blocked legislation that would have improved the background check system and assist in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable --- a process that 90 percent of Americans also support.

 As you all have heard me say numerous times since beginning my journey as Chief, keeping the citizens of our city safe and reducing crimes in our neighborhoods are my first priorities. I believe that implementing a more effective background check system and closing loopholes in established gun laws is a positive step towards achieving this goal. Unfortunately, a majority of the Senators feel differently.

President Obama called yesterday, “a pretty shameful day for Washington.” Yesterday’s decision in Washington will trickle down to affect our city. Our officers will continue to battle violent offenders who have easy access to the guns and the opportunity to commit crimes.

Although this defeat in Washington is a significant one, I, along with local, state and regional leaders, medical professionals and community partners, will continue our fight for stricter gun laws to keep us safe.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"The Best is yet to Come" My First 100 Days as Chief of Police

This week marked my 100th day as Chief of Police.  The past 100 days have been rewarding, challenging, humbling and full of emotion.  I think anyone that is fortunate enough to serve in the role experiences a sense of overwhelming desire to make a difference.  While I am proud of the progress we have made since January 1st, there is still a great deal to accomplish.

I told myself when I started on January 1st, there were three things I had to focus on every day.  First, to continue to reduce crime is our mission and job #1.  Second, combat this perception that the city is unsafe. There are lots of law abiding citizens who enjoy the city and what it has to offer.  And third, I had to communicate both with officers and the public.  If I could do these things, I thought I might have a chance to be successful.

So let’s talk about the first one, reducing crime.  On day 100, crime was down by more than 7%.  The men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department are doing a great job.

Many of you have probably heard the term “hot spot policing” more frequently, or even for the first time, in the past couple of months.  My first goal when becoming Chief was to explore and improve crime-fighting initiatives  and to continue to lower the crime rate.  Although hot spot policing may sound like a special program, it’s the way we do business.  I think the initiative in College Hill is a great example of this.  Hot spot policing is not an exception, it is the new norm.

The perception that the city is unsafe is just that, a perception.  Like many urban communities, some of the city’s neighborhoods are challenged but those are the exception, not the rule.  Criminals don’t recognize city/county borders or state borders for that matter, so limiting analysis to just the city is inaccurate.  It remains true that your chance of being victimized is much less if you do not engage in a lifestyle that puts you at risk.

As for my communication goals, I have attended dozens of meetings with residents and businesses to talk about what the Metropolitan Police Department is doing to make St. Louis safer.  Over the past three months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you and I appreciate your open and honest opinions on our crime fighting initiatives and your expectations for the Department.  Looking forward, I am excited to serve this community and continue striving for the Department’s ongoing mission to make your streets and neighborhoods safer.

As a Police Department, we are accountable to each of you, the citizens we serve.  With accountability in mind, I reinstituted the rank of Major, which had been phased out more than four years ago.  In the absence of a Major, the area patrol stations were left to operate without a leader, a cohesive mission or plan to address crime.  Today, we have five Majors who are held accountable for decreasing crime and working with residents.

On a personal note, the one thing I did not expect about the job, nor could I have prepared for, was the emotion of the job.  It keeps me awake at night worrying about the safety of officers.  I ask officers who are moms and dads, sons and daughters to go out and deal with some very bad people, criminals who have no respect for the law or the value of human life.  I worry about the safety of each of our officers every day.

Several incidents have occurred since I became Chief and these incidents play a large role in why I have chosen to take a stand against gun violence.  Gun violence has plagued not only our community, but communities around the country.  I, along with Mayor Slay and Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce have pledged to work with circuit judges to create a gun court in an effort to address the gun crimes in our community.

I hope the first 100 days are indicative of the changes to come.  With local control on the horizon, a new headquarters building under renovation and a chance to reinvent the Department by re-districting, I am optimistic that the best is yet to come.

Every day I proudly come to work hoping to make the Metropolitan Police Department and the City of St. Louis a little better.  I look forward to the future and the next 100 days.