Monday, June 17, 2013

June 9 - June 15: A Week in Review

One of the main purposes I had in starting this blog was to give St. Louisans a chance to share the perspective of a Police Chief.  I want you all to see what I see, and know what I know, because I believe you are entitled to nothing less.

If you have been following the news, you are already aware that our city just went through an unusually bad week.  In fact, I don’t mind telling you, if St. Louis never sees another week like the last one, it will be too soon for me.

The long-term trend line for crime in our city has been moving steadily in the right direction. Year to year, and month to month, crime in St. Louis has been going down, down, down.  But not everyone obeys the law of averages, and the events of last week prove it.

Here are the facts.  In one 24-hour period, our city saw 7 shooting incidents which resulted in 18 victims being struck by gunfire, and one stabbing. During the same week, we also saw a spike in robberies and burglaries.

The department’s response was swift and appropriate.  We deployed all available resources to stem the tide of violence.  Even our senior leaders threw themselves into the fight.  One of the shooting incidents was an ambush of Major Joe Spiess, a senior commander serving in the capacity of a patrol officer at a time when all hands were needed on the street.

Last Monday, we were lucky in one respect, because even with such an unusual number of incidents, no one was killed.  Things got dramatically worse on Thursday, with a workplace murder-suicide that claimed the lives of four people in a popular neighborhood.

The Police Department has already made several arrests in connection with last week’s violence.  One suspect who is responsible for injuring 6 of the 18 shooting victims. He has been arrested and charged.  We’ve made two arrests in connection with the attack on Major Spiess, and one suspect has been charged with Assault 1st on a Law Enforcement Officer.

The department’s performance was not perfect.  I’m bitterly disappointed to report that one suspect escaped from his hospital room due to inadequate security on our part. The suspect is back in custody. We have reviewed our protocols and practices.

But even with all the arrests we’ve made and the charges issued, I strongly believe that the culpable accomplices in last week’s violence remain at large, despite the fact that we have clearly and repeatedly identified them. 

Those culprits are: 1) Guns in the hands of violent criminals, and 2) Inadequate sentencing combined with a probation/parole system that just doesn’t work.

One of the people we arrested was a previously convicted armed robber, released – on unsupervised probation - after serving only 120 days.  No doubt when the other cases have been solved, we will find out that several of the suspects are also previously convicted criminals or arrestees, released back into society too soon, with too little supervision, and with far too easy access to the handguns that have flooded our streets.

I said the purpose of this blog was to share my perspective with you, and there is no part of my perspective more important or more urgent than this.  I began my term as Chief believing that the keys to long-term crime reduction must be fewer guns in violent criminal hands and tougher sentences for convicted criminals. Everything I’ve seen since I started confirms me in those beliefs.  Especially what I saw in our city last week.

My thoughts and prayers remain with the innocent victims of last week’s violence, and with their survivors in mourning.