Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why We Do What We Do to Make the SLMPD Great

The Metropolitan Police Department is committed to conducting a fair and impartial investigation into all officer involved shootings. My unequivocal commitment to the citizens of this community is to have a process that is fair, transparent and based on facts and evidence of the law, not speculation.

Friday, the Circuit Attorney announced her intention to conduct an immediate and parallel criminal investigation into the shooting of Mansur Ball-Bey. As Police Commissioner, I support any thoughtful and independent review by interested law enforcement partners. I welcome the Circuit Attorney’s investigation. But I want to be clear, police officers in the City work in some of the most challenging areas and, sometimes, with little support. They do great work and have great skills, extensive training and well-created policies. They are among the best around the country and should receive recognition for their hard work and professionalism. The Circuit Attorney assures me that her comments were not a criticism of the men and women of this Department.

However, some have seized upon a subsequent exchange of statements to the media between the Circuit Attorney and the Police Officers Association to support an insinuation that the Circuit Attorney’s action reflects a problem with our policies, practices and training. Just as I would refute any unfair criticism of Department members, I must refute an unfair challenge to our policies.

To ensure that this Department uses best practices, the Force Investigative Unit (FIU) was created in August 2014. The FIU’s primary responsibility is to investigate all officer involved shootings in the City of St. Louis. The unit was created from a very successful model used by the Los Angeles Police Department. The policies of the FIU were co-written and reviewed by this Department, Professor David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and members of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. The agreed-upon policies include investigative steps and specific procedures for case transfer to the Circuit Attorney’s Office.

The Department has made the FIU a priority and has invested tens of thousands of dollars to ensure the unit has the best training and equipment available for each investigation and includes highly qualified investigators.

From the unit’s origins, it was agreed that at the conclusion of an investigation conducted by the FIU, the investigative findings are to be referred to the Circuit Attorney’s Office for an independent review. This process ensures a comprehensive and thorough review of each case.

So far, the FIU has completed two investigations into officer involved shootings. The first occurred in the 8700 block of Riverview and resulted in the death of Kajieme Powell on August 19, 2014.  In that case detectives assigned to the FIU began their investigation immediately. Upon completion of their work, the case was handed over to the Circuit Attorney’s Office 182 days later on February 17, 2015. The Circuit Attorney’s Office is currently still investigating that case and is 187 days into their review.

The second case occurred on October 8, 2014, in the 4100 block of Shaw and resulted in the death of Vonderrit Meyers. In that case, the FIU began their investigation immediately. FIU turned the case over to the Circuit Attorney’s Office 58 days later on December 5, 2014. The Circuit Attorney’s Office then conducted their review and released their findings 164 days later on May 18, 2015, and determined there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the officer involved.

Given the pace of the Circuit Attorney’s work, a head-start on this case, which has the community’s attention, makes some sense.

However, the Circuit Attorney’s request that the newly-created Civilian Oversight Board (COB) ask for a review of all Police Department policies and procedures by the Office of the Missouri Attorney General makes less sense. That may happen, but the COB, created as an independent reviewer, has not yet been empanelled to even consider whether it wishes to yield the mission the ordinance has given it.

This request creates a spectre that is simply not true. The Department’s policies are consistent with best practices set forth by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

The Department works under the stringent and demanding processes that the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) provides and has maintained high standards for commissioned and civilian members of the Department since 2007.

In August 2013, the Department became one of only 15 agencies (from a pool of more than 1,000 departments from across the country) to receive the TRI-ARC award. This is given to police departments that have gained accreditation in three areas: law enforcement operations, public safety communications, and public safety training. Very few agencies receive this award and it came only after much hard work and commitment from a dedicated department and compliance with over 2,000 standards and action steps in our comprehensive policies.

CALEA is the gold standard in the law enforcement field and ensures that our policies are up-to-date, progressive and among the best in the country. The men and women who serve the City as officers of the Metropolitan Police Department have met the highest standards of our profession, I am disappointed that this was not mentioned.