Thursday, March 27, 2014

In the Line of Duty

In 1991, Barbara Miksicek , David McElreath  and retired Lt. Colonel Stephen Pollihan coauthored a very special book called In the Line of Duty: St. Louis Police Officers Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice. The book chronicled the stories of the 148 St. Louis Police Officers killed in the line of duty from 1861-1990.
Being a Police Officer is an emotional job, everyday. When an officer is injured it istraumaticbut when an officer dies in the line of duty, it is the worst of the worst.  We remember our fallen officers each year in May during Police Week and with a Memorial Breakfast.  

This year is special. The second edition of In the Line of Duty: St. Louis Police Officers Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice by Barbara Miksicek and Kristiana Carnaghi published is now available. The book tells the heroic stories of all 164 fallen St. Louis Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty. Not only does this book allow us to remember and memorialize our heroes, but it also helps us to share their stories.
The stories of each officer’s death have been updated with new information and new pictures. In the first edition, then Police Chief Robert Scheetz wrote the book’s forward.  I was honored to pen the forward for the second edition. Below you can read both Chief’s reflections on those who served our city. I hope these stories move and inspire you.

First Edition

"Here stands our city's perfect warrior.  Here stands our perfect shining blue knight."  These words were spoken by Jack Buck, the keynote speaker at the dedication of our memorial statue on May 15, 1989.  The statue honors the 148 officers of the St. Louis Police Department who have died in the line of duty.  It stands as a reminder that these men performed the greatest act any police officer can do - they gave their lives to protect others.

This book, In the Line of Duty, also honors these men.  It is not a book about death.  Rather, it is a book about service, duty and valor of 148 officers.  There was no great wealth in their chosen profession, nor was there any lasting fame. They had families who loved them and who were waiting for them to return home from work.  They were fathers, husbands, sons and brothers.  And they are special not because they died, but because they served.

I am especially pleased the authors dedicated this book to the families of the deceased officers, for it is they who had to endure the pain of losing a loved one.  It is difficult to read this book and not think of the families of the slain officers, particularly their children.  I want the children to know that their fathers were not only special to them, but also to all of us in the Department, as well as to the citizens of St. Louis.  I also want the children to know that their fathers will not be forgotten - not now, not ever.  They will constantly be in our prayers and serve as an inspiration to us all.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the list of those who died in the line of duty was complete as it now stands?  That the tragedy of a slain officer would never again be repeated?  For those who have already made this ultimate sacrifice, this book is our tribute.

Colonel Robert E. Scheetz
Chief of Police

Second Edition

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
George S. Patton, Jr.

This is not a book of mourning.  This is a book of gratitude.  The stories told here deserve more than just our tears.  They deserve our thanks, now and forever.  The 164 lives remembered in these pages are not tragic.  They are heroic and exemplary, because although every life ends in death, only the greatest lives can be defined by service.

And yet to say this does not diminish our sorrow, nor take away the anxiety we all feel, knowing that what has happened before will happen again.  For it is not about their own safety that police officers worry most, it is about the safety of their brothers and sisters in arms.  What wakes us up at night is not a selfish thought, but a social emotion.  It is the nightmare of getting that call, driving to the hospital, talking to another family torn by loss, standing at another gravesite, knowing that another chapter must be added to this book, knowing that one more is too many because one has always been too many.
This book does not exist to remind us of our shared risks, for we do not need reminding.  Even the simple act of getting dressed for work as a police officer symbolizes the danger we face every day.
The first shock comes when we put on our Kevlar vest, and there’s something surreal about it, because we know it is there to protect our vital organs.  The weight of it, the sound of the Velcro straps, it gets our attention immediately.  We put on our duty belt, which is there to accommodate our many tools of survival.  We put on our handcuffs, which are there to restrain those who would do harm to the community.  We grab our radio, which is there to summon our brothers and sisters when we need them most.  We grab our Taser, which is there so we can use the least amount of force necessary, because even those who would harm us are still ours to protect.  We holster our gun, which is there in case everything else fails.  We put on our blue shirt, our badge, and our cap, and with all these small acts, we are making a visible pledge to the community.  We are saying, “I am on duty and I am here to serve.”
The officers remembered here all made that same promise, each in his different time, and each in his different way.  At its most fundamental level, this book tells the story of how each officer kept that promise, regardless of cost.

As a way of saying thanks, learning their stories is the very least we can do.

Colonel D. Samuel Dotson
Chief of Police

The public can purchase the book at the St. Louis Police Library, located at 315 S. Tucker, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The cost of the book is $40.00. Citizens can also find a mail-in order form on our website. The cost of the book plus shipping is $47.00, cash or check.  Make checks payable to the City of St. Louis.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Perspectives from the St. Louis Police Academy

The following is a guest post written by Lieutenant Daniel Coll, Director of the Police Academy, and 35-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  It was originally published within the organization, but I thought readers of this blog might appreciate it as well.

As you all know, the St. Louis Police Academy is the point of entry for commissioned member of our great Police Department. No matter where his or her career ends up, no officer ever forgets where it began, and every officer can recall the fear and excitement of walking up the steps of 315 S. Tucker to start training.

The Academy isn't just a place where memories are made.  It's also the place where they are kept, stored, and preserved through the ages. This is because the Academy is home to the St. Louis Police Library, the oldest and largest law enforcement library in the United States. Along with an unrivaled collection of police-related books and publications, the library also includes an impressive - and ever-growing - collection of priceless Department relics. Indeed, the forthcoming move of Police Headquarters from 1200 Clark to 1915 Olive promises to unearth a whole trove of previously forgotten treasures.

The history of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is vast and storied.  Articles found within the old Police Journals capture amazing sagas, with feats of bravery and touches of comedy stretching back a century or more. From the arrest of "Pretty Boy" Floyd, to car pursuits by Sergeant Michael Stanton, to numerous shoot-outs during the roaring 20's and crime-ridden 30's, it is safe to say that like no other big city police department, ours has seen some interesting sights.

But while the Academy always keeps one eye on the past, our focus is set squarely on the future. Our newest group of recruits, The Nicholas Sloan Memorial Class, are only now concluding their third week of instruction. They have a long way to go, and a lot to learn.  But in the memory of their namesake, they have a legacy of courage and dedication to guide them at every step. On May 22, they will join hundreds of Department members at our annual Memorial Breakfast, and there they will pay tribute to all those officers who, like Nick, served this city and gave it what Abraham Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion".

At the Academy, we believe these lessons are too important to be forgotten or ignored.  We believe the best way to serve the future is by remembering the past, and we believe the best way to preserve the past is by making sure it always remains a vital part of our future.

I am grateful to Lt. Coll for sharing these thoughts with the Department, and now with the public-at-large. One of the reasons why this message had such a personal impact on me is because my basic training classmate, Robert J. Stanze II, is among the 164 officers we honor at the Memorial Breakfast each year. Bob and I walked up those Academy stairs together, sharing both the excitement and the fear.  When his watch ended on August 8th 2000, I drove his wife to the hospital, and  that day I saw and learned the true meaning of "paid the ultimate sacrifice." It is a day I never want to relive or have another family experience. Like his 163 brothers, Bob Stanze belongs to our future just as much as our past, and he remains a beloved member of a police family that never forgets.