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.