A blog by the Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis, Missouri.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Attorney General Koster's Roundtable on Representative Policing: My Remarks
I’d like to thank Attorney
General Chris Koster for bringing us together to talk about this important
topic. The past 50-plus days will be transformative in law enforcement, not
just here in St. Louis, but around the world.
Ferguson is emblematic
of a problem. Decades and generations of social and economic disparity, years
of profound underemployment, lack of educational opportunities, increases in
black-on-black crime, a lack of access to affordable healthcare and real mental
health services. These are problems that impact large segments of our community,
as others have already said this morning.
The narrative Ferguson
is writing for our nation and the world is still being written and will
continue being written over the next months, but today we have a chance to impact
that narrative in a meaningful way.
Discussing race will
forever be a difficult conversation in our world and it is especially difficult
for a white police chief in a community that is approaching 50 percent African
American. However, it is exactly the reason why we should have this
conversation, and why we are having it here today.
impacted by crime need law enforcement the most, but those communities also
have come to fear police as an occupying force. In some communities, police
have become the face of government because government has failed to provide
even some of the most basic needs. This creates a cycle of mistrust and if we
want to talk about the cycle, we must first understand symptoms.
Mistrust of the police comes
from a very basic level and sometimes occurs because of where someone is
standing when they look at the problem. Implicit bias is real and we are
working to address it. We all have beliefs and biases that we allow to reach
from our subconscious into our daily interactions and create hurdles.
I'll give you an example
of “not in my backyard”. I firmly believe economics is key to our region’s
growth. With growth and investment comes better infrastructure and better
accessibility to all the things we know curb crime: jobs, education, affordable
Today, we come together
as a region, as a community and as one city to talk about the challenges that
we face. We know that linking Downtown through the central corridor to NorthCounty
to the airport with Metrolink needs to continue to St. Charles and
Chesterfield; yet many people say, “not in my backyard”.
Today, we are here to talk
about representative policing, however, really limiting the conversation to
policing doesn't do the conversation justice.
The criminal justice
system needs to be representative of the community that we live in. When I say
live in, I don't mean just where we lay our heads at night. I mean the entire community;
where we go to sporting events, where we dine and where we vacation.
Law enforcement agencies
must look for qualified applicants; ones that understand their implicit biases,
and ones that are reflective of the communities they serve. I think we all
agree that qualified applicants are the key.
We have to be serious
about recruitment. For qualified candidates, governments
compete with Emerson, Anheuser-Busch, Centene and all the major corporations who pay
much, much better.
Two-thirds of the
applicants that apply to the Metropolitan Police Department are white and about
30 percent of applicants are black, even though we service a community that's approaching
50% African American.
We look for
opportunities to keep our community safer. Opportunities as simple as an armed offender
docket, which asks the courts to have specific paths to monitor individuals
that hold our communities hostage. Representative policing is not just about
the uniform; it’s about justice, safety and the rights we all share.
So while the word ‘police’
has become generic in some conversations, the conversation is not just about
civilian oversight or body cameras. It's about having a justice system and a
process that works for all…including black, white, male, female, gay, lesbian,
disenfranchised, rich or poor. Representative policing is about having a system
that works for us; for St. Louisans, for Missourians, and for Americans.
Let’s have a real
conversation today, not just about the symptoms that manifest themselves but
about solutions to the causes of the symptoms. Ferguson has started a dialogue
that has been significantly unremarkable since the end of the 1960's. Let’s really have the conversation.
Thank you, again, Attorney General Koster for bringing us together to make this conversation