This ritual should not be limited to individuals alone. Organizations also have a need to reflect and resolve, to learn from experience and to gain focus by clarifying shared aspirations.
The past few years have certainly taught us much, containing more than our fair share of historic significance. The future will certainly test us as well, with a new set of professional challenges to face.
But despite everything, we look to the future with confidence and optimism. The New Year is, after all, a time of celebration. We look forward to it precisely because we know that our challenges, both individual and shared, are well within our capacity to meet.
We know this, because we can see the proof in our past performance.
Just look at what this agency has accomplished - what you have accomplished - even in the face of unprecedented obstacles. When crime tried to break out of a 25-year long downward trend and take control of our streets, you moved swiftly and decisively to contain it. Indeed, only by the grace of your actions has St. Louis been able to limit the increase. Other cities have not fared as well against the nationwide spike in crime.
The fact that you did this at a moment when officer staff levels are at their lowest in living memory is an even more powerful testament to your dedication, talent and skill. Rarely in the field of public safety has so much been owed by so many, to so few.
The fact that you did this without sacrificing our agency's commitment to community outreach is a testament to your decency, your humanity and your sense of kinship with the citizens you serve.
The fact that you did this under the looming menace of terrorism - in all its heavily armed forms, from Paris to San Bernardino to Colorado Springs - is a testament to your courage.
When I reflect on these lessons of the past, I see a clear direction for our future in 2016.
We must keep crime reduction as our first priority. To do this, we must continue to combine the best of what works in traditional policing practices with the most promising of what's next in law enforcement technology.
At the same time, we must support those who shoulder the burden of public safety, by rewarding hard work with just compensation and more officers on our streets.
We must continue to make long-term investments in our community, with outreach programs to connect with our youth and with partnerships to harness the power of civic leadership. Crime reduction has always been a collaborative effort by both law enforcement and the community, and it must be even more so in the years ahead.
Frustrating as it has been, we cannot stop fighting for rational policy and sentencing that fits the crime. We must continue to speak out against a system that makes it easy for criminals to arm themselves, while making it infuriatingly hard to hold armed criminals accountable.
And finally, we must not forget to give gratitude where it is due. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is a model agency, known and admired throughout the nation, directly due to the personal qualities of the men and women who work here. Whatever else you do to celebrate the New Year, please take a moment to reflect on that, and to thank each other…just as I thank you.
Happy New Year,
D. Samuel Dotson III