Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What the Post-Dispatch Didn't Tell You

Last night, the Metropolitan Police Department responded to late afternoon questions asked by a Post-Dispatch reporter relative to an article in today’s edition of the Post-Dispatch.

Below you will read our response.

For whatever reason, the Post-Dispatch chose not to include our side of the encounter or the fact that contact with officers was approximately 20 minutes.

Below is a summary of what occurred when Cortez Cooper visited the Records Division -

Today, Cortez Cooper went to the Records Division here at Police Headquarters to obtain a records check.  In doing so, Cortez Cooper stated his identity as part of the process to obtain the records information he was seeking. Per department policy, the individual requesting the records check is processed through the criminal justice system to determine if they have any outstanding warrants. During this time, Cortez Cooper never informed or showed the clerk who was assisting him the court order.

When the clerk ran Cortez Cooper's information, outstanding warrants for Cecil Cooper were revealed (Cecil Cooper has been arrested using Cortez Cooper's name and birthdate, so his name serves as an alias for Cortez Cooper). During the investigation, 4th District Officers were summoned to the Records Division to arrest the wanted suspect. 

Upon arrival to Police Headquarters, the officers went to the Records Division to conduct their investigation of the wanted suspect. The officers explained to the suspect why he was being detained, and at no time did he indicate to officers that he was in possession of a court order that would verify his true identity. While the officers were talking to the suspect, his mother was allowed access to the Records Division to check on him. The mother encountered the officers and the suspect and asked what was going on.  As the officers explained the situation to the mother, she told the officers that the suspect was Cortez Cooper, not Cecil Cooper.  The mother also stated that Cortez had a court order and identification in his possession to prove that he was not the wanted suspect, Cecil Cooper.  The officers asked Cortez Cooper why he had not revealed that information to them, and he did not have an answer.  Once the court order and identification of Cortez Cooper was presented to the officers he was released.

This entire process took 20 minutes for officers to ascertain Cortez Cooper's identity.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Memorial Highway Dedication Luncheon Honoring Sgt. Jeffry Kowalski & P.O. Daryl Hall: My Remarks

 Thank you all for being here to mark this very special occasion. 

One of the interesting things about being Chief of Police is how often it makes me feel proud of other people and humbled in myself.

The simple fact is: this job puts me in contact with a lot of heroes and a lot of heroism every day and today is no exception. 

These signs honor two men who knew where they were going, who had the courage, who took the risks and who made the ultimate sacrifice in public service.

So as you drive down the highway - surrounded by the noise, the bustle, the billboards and the pressing need to figure out where you are going - please…pause and take a moment to notice a sign bearing the names of Sergeant Jeffrey Kowalski and Police Officer Darryl Hall.

These two officers joined a list that is always too long and never to be forgotten, adding their names to the names of our fallen: names like Merriweather, Strehl, Stanze, Barwick, Sloan, Branson, Jerabek, Brown, Moore and Haynes.

As Patton reminds us: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank god that such men lived."

Today our purpose is simply to show our thanks, and express our humility for the way Kowalski and Hall lived.

And that is why we honor them with a dedication to something that is both public, and permanent. 

Public…like the nature of their service. Permanent…like the light of their shining example.

Thank you Sergeant Kowalski, thank you Officer Hall and thank you to the families who shared them with us.

And thank all of you for being here and caring enough to show these men a small part of the thanks they deserve.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Macy's Festival of Lights: My Remarks

Thank you, and trust me when I say…this is a happier occasion than some of the ones you find on a police chief's schedule. I'm glad to be here for the official start of the holiday season in St. Louis

I'm glad because this is something that brings people together. Whatever you believe, however you worship, whichever days on the calendar you celebrate, there's something in this season for everybody to enjoy. 

It doesn't matter which holidays you celebrate or which is your favorite. Maybe it's Thanksgiving, maybe it's Christmas, maybe it's Hanukah or Kwanzaa, maybe it's New Year's, or maybe you just like getting a little time off from work.What matters is: this time of the year is supposed to be nice, and people are supposed to be nice to each other.

Unfortunately…not everyone gets the message, and that's why we have the police.

There are a few Grinches out there looking to steal Christmas…or anything else they can get their hands on, and it's important that we do our best to stop them.

While you're out there shopping, ice skating, sledding or just driving back and forth to visit loved ones, we'll be out there trying to make sure you stay safe and feel safe.

We can't do it alone. To succeed, our anti-Grinch initiative also needs YOUR help as citizens.

You can accomplish a lot just by using common sense:
  • Don't leave your valuables in plain sight when you park your car.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Don't use illegal drugs.
  • Have fun WITHOUT guns.
  • Be considerate to others.
There are no guarantees in life, but if you follow those rules…you can avoid most of the trouble that's out there.

For everything else, you have the police department. And we never take the day off.

Finally, I should mention that in law enforcement we have a lot of information-sharing partnerships these days, so…when it comes to keeping the list of who's naughty and nice, let's just say we remain in very close contact with our North Pole source. 

So try to stay off the naughty list.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone in St. Louis.

Fire Chief Jenkerson, Santa and Chief Dotson at the Macy's Festival of Lights 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Sad Truth That I Wish Was Fiction: Another Chief's Rant

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

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.