Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Sad Reality of The World We Live In: A Chief’s Rant

The first thing a police chief does after waking up in the morning is find out what happened in their city while they were asleep. This morning was no exception.  What I discovered on this particular day made me sad, angry and frustrated, but even more so, made me question who is helping us change the culture.

There are many things in my life which I can control, however there are many more which I cannot.  Last night was one of those nights that I could not control.

Before going to sleep last night, I read my friend Tim Fitch’s blog. Tim, who is Chief of Police in St. Louis County, blogged about “How Not to Become a Homicide Victim”…one of the things we preach daily in law enforcement.  His tips: don’t sell drugs, don’t carry an illegal gun, remove yourself from abusive relationships and help those with mental illness receive treatment.  It made sense, it was common sense, and I agreed with Chief Fitch and his thoughts.

When I woke up this morning, I thought about his message in a different light after learning about the behavior of a 15-year old overnight.  It started about 2:20 in the morning when a young man, armed with a handgun, approached a vehicle owner and ordered the owner to lie on the ground while he drove off in the victim’s Cadillac.  Minutes later, officers observed the 15-year old suspect in the stolen Cadillac.  This began a nearly 20 minute pursuit of a 15-year old armed robber.  The suspect, with no regard for human life and with reckless disregard for the wellbeing of anyone else including himself, drove erratically and recklessly; even striking a police officer’s vehicle.  Our training and tactics teach officers to use a variety of methods to end pursuits like this one.  I must commend the officers for their professionalism, their composure and their desire to end this pursuit as quickly and safely as possible.  Those skills, along with the use of spike strips to deflate the suspect’s tires, ended this dangerous fleeing safely.

When the vehicle finally came to rest, the suspect jumped from the vehicle in an effort to run from officers.  Officers used a Taser to finally subdue the young man and arrest him.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries to the officers, to citizens or to the suspect.  The 15-year old suspect has been charged with Robbery 1st, Assault 2nd on a Law Enforcement Officer, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Property Damage and Resisting Arrest.

And to answer the question before you ask: this was not his first foray into the area of criminal enterprises. Somebody should have seen this young man was on a course that needed correction. Where were his parents? Where are his parents? Where were the courts? Where was anyone?

Here is the harsh reality of the world we live in: last night, a 15-year old armed with a gun and a 2,000 pound vehicle led police officers on a winding pursuit with little to no regard for anyone’s wellbeing, or for that matter, their life.  Where is the community’s outrage? Where are the interventions? This is just one of a countless litany of crimes where we have to stop and ask ourselves: is this the world we want, but more importantly, what are we willing to do to change it?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Update on Police Headquarters at 1915 Olive

By now everyone has heard me talk about the goal of improving communication, both inside and outside the Department. Communication is one of my highest priorities because I believe that the citizens of this community have the right to know my vision for this Department.

Many of you have asked me about the future move to the new Police Headquarters building, located at 1915 Olive. When will the actual process of moving begin?  When will it be complete?  What will it cost?  How will it be managed? How will the change impact police services?  And so on.

The move to 1915 Olive is one of the most massive logistical undertakings in the long history of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  Anyone who has ever moved a family of two or more people can easily imagine the challenges involved in moving a family of 1,900.  Complications are simply inevitable.

Those complications are also manageable, especially if we think and talk about them in advance.  With that in mind, let me take a few moments to share with the community what we know and what we foresee in this process.

On July 1, we received a "Notice to Proceed" and the construction contracts were issued.  This moved us past a very important milestone.  Many steps have been on hold pending this development and now the practical work can begin in earnest.

At present, we are projecting a construction completion date of April 10, 2014. Just imagine the complexity involved in outfitting a large modern office building with work-space for close to 1,000 people, over 146,000 square feet, with highly unique security and technology needs.  This will not be easy.

It will also not be free.  Cost projections from this point forward, as set forth in the contracts, are $6,558,500.  To any of us thinking about it in personal terms, that is a very intimidating number.  But the cost of the move must be compared to the value added and to the cost of the alternatives.  By that measure, we are looking at a significant bargain.  If we had to carry the full cost of constructing a new building of similar size and type, we would be facing a very large sum of money and an amount we might not be able to afford. Most importantly, the costs which confront us in this process are, and always have been, lower than the costs required to maintain the decaying structure at 1200 Clark. Funding for this project has come from the St. Louis Police Foundation, the Asset Forfeiture Account and Municipal Bonds, keeping General Fund monies for operating expenses of the Police Department. For us, the move to a new headquarters has never been a nice-to-have, it's always been a need-to-have.

I believe the new features at 1915 Olive will ultimately help the department to change the culture of the agency itself. The move will not only mark a milestone in the history of the department and the City of St. Louis, it will better assist us to continue to provide excellent police services to protect and serve our communities.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Peaceful Rally

In wake of the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin Case, emotions were running high in cities around the country and here in St. Louis.  People wanted an outlet to let the world know they cared.

Spontaneous rallies started as peaceful gatherings from New York to California.  But as is sometimes the case, those with personal agendas turned those gatherings into unlawful assemblies.  The rally held in our city on Sunday was peaceful. The majority of the attendees were well-behaved and respectful. Police officers stood side by side with participants listening to speakers. 

But as was the case in other cities, a few clearly had their own agenda.  When the rally turned into a protest, four individuals were arrested when they violated the law.  It was clear that these individuals had their own plans and were not aligned with the wishes of the Martin family, who called for peaceful gatherings.

While I am empathic to the issue at the core of these rallies, we all expect the citizens of our community to act peacefully and respectfully.  When people turn hostile, they put other people at risk.

I want to be clear, the Metropolitan Police Department is committed to ensuring every citizen’s constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly in a lawful manner, however we are equally committed to keeping our city and our residents safe. 

As organizers prepare for their next event, I urge calm, peace and free speech…It is what our community expects and deserves.