Monday, May 30, 2016

A Sane Rant for a Crazy System: Part II

The more I look at the challenges our officers face every day, the more I realize what a great job they do in a system that seems to do little more than to create more work for them time and time again. 

I am going to tell you a story of two incidents. The two suspects have a great deal in common upfront but the endings tell a tale of the trials and tribulations our city faces with some of its judges.

Let me introduce you to Timothy Krausman and Austin Reed.

Timothy Krausman                                                          Austin Reed

To tell this story, I am going to rely on a little help from Fox 2 (KTVI) and the Post-Dispatch. You see both men robbed financial institutions in our area last week, one in the City of St. Louis and the other in St. Peters. Both men were caught.

ST. PETERS, MO (KTVI) – Detectives with the St. Peters Police Department need the public's help in locating a bank robbery suspect who stole cash from the Bank of America at Mid-Rivers Mall Circle.
Bank surveillance photos show an African-American man, approximately 6’4” tall, who was wearing sunglasses, a Rams stocking cap, a dark blue vest, and gray long-sleeved shirt.
Police said he handed a crumpled note to the bank teller demanding money and suggesting he had a gun.
The teller handed over an undisclosed amount of money and the suspect left. No one was hurt.

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – St. Louis police are looking for a man who held up a credit union Tuesday.  It happened shortly before two at the Gateway Metro Federal Credit Union on Chestnut Street.
Police say he handed the teller a note but never showed a weapon.
The suspect ran off and was last seen headed toward the MetroLink station at 8th and Pine.
Call CrimeStoppers if you have information that can help police.

So there are the facts, both men walked into financial institutions last week, handed a teller a note, Austin may have indicated a gun but never displayed one, Timothy didn’t say he had a gun, both men took the money from the teller, left and no one was hurt.  Both men are now under arrest.

That’s where their similarities stop.  You see when you rob a bank in St. Peters (St. Charles County) they take it pretty seriously.  According to the Post-Dispatch:

Police said (Austin) Reed was charged with robbery and was being held in the St. Charles County Jail with bail set at $500,000.
So if you are rooting for the City, one would think it would treat criminals who commit crimes in the City similar to those who commit crimes in other parts of our region. Spoiler alert…it didn’t work that way this time and in reality, it rarely does. The bail for committing the same crime in the City is exactly $497,500 LESS than in St. Charles County. That’s right the bail for Timothy Krausman was $25,000 or 10% cash-only.

But wait, as this is not the end of the story. It gets better, or actually worse. You see, Timothy lists his home address as 1621 North 1st Street in the City of St. Louis. If you follow Post-Dispatch reporter Nicholas J.C. Pistor, you would recognize that address as a “massive halfway house near downtown” which he wrote about earlier in May. That’s right, our bank robber is living in a halfway house on the edge of Downtown, along with about 550 other high-risk parolees.

Yep, you got it right, even if you are already on parole and living in a state-run halfway house, your bail is less.

There’s more. Timothy Krausman was sentenced to 10 years for Child Pornography in 2008. He was sentenced in Taney County (I had to look that one up too). Taney County is in the southwest part of the state and includes Branson. In April 2015, Timothy was released to the Kansas City Community Release Center where he stayed until the business community in KC lobbied the state to have that halfway house converted into a minimum security prison with no in and out privileges. 

Let’s recap, while on parole for Child Pornography from southwest Missouri, Timothy Krausman is living at a halfway house in Downtown St. Louis after being relocated from Kansas City, he robs a bank and his bail is set at $2,500 cash-only. Fortunately, Timothy is still in custody but the bigger question remains, what message does this send to criminals? If you commit a crime and are caught in other parts of the region, there are REAL CONSEQUENCES. If you commit a crime and get caught in the City of St. Louis, well

If you think this is an isolated incident, it’s not on either front the treatment by the courts or the problems at the halfway house. Because you see, another resident of 1621 North 1st Street was arrested in December of last year for, wait for it, robbing a bank in Downtown St. Louis.

You can’t make this up. 

The moral to this story is a crime is a crime. I am not saying the judge in St. Charles County was correct, nor am I saying that the judge in the City of St. Louis is wrong. But if the perception is that crimes committed in the City of St. Louis don’t carry the same consequences as those in other parts of the region and you are a criminal, why not take a chance in the City? That has to change. The judges in the 22nd Judicial Circuit have the preponderance of work in the region and the state for that matter, but maybe they are making the work for themselves by not having the fortitude that some of their counterparts around the state have.

P.S. While I was sitting at my desk writing this blog, yet another resident of 1621 North 1st Street was just arrested for suspicion of breaking into a vehicle Downtown near the City Museum.

Kansas City had a halfway house just like this one until that community rallied and told the state no more. St. Louis, it's time for us to say enough is enough and end this crime factory.

A Sane Rant for a Crazy System: Part I

It should, at least in theory, be impossible to shock a police chief.

It should be impossible for anyone with over 20 years in law enforcement experience to be surprised by the insane things that happen in the world of crime and the criminal justice system.

But it’s not.

Because when you combine a runaway gun culture with a lack of judicial accountability, it seems like anything is possible.

And it must be, since our criminal justice system just keeps on breaking records for dangerous absurdity.

Every time I think, "okay, this particular piece of nonsense has got to be rock bottom", the sheer madness of our criminal justice system jumps up to surprise me once again by taking things down to an even lower low.

Every time I think “okay, surely now common decency and common sense will intervene to stop things from getting worse”, something comes along and shocks me again.

Case in point:

Back in February, we delivered to the justice system an armed criminal, 18-years old with suspected ties to gang activity – who, just for good measure, gave further evidence of his violent intentions by resisting arrest.

What decisive action did our courts take in response to this proven threat to public safety?

They sent him HOME with an ankle bracelet to await trial.

And what lesson did that leniency teach him?

Apparently, he learned the criminal justice system is only kidding when it comes to matters of crime and punishment. About a month after being released on bond, he was back in court for violating the terms of his bail. What did the courts do? They sent him home again.

What did he learn? He learned not to respect the law. He learned the judges were ineffective in holding him accountable and his contempt for the system was validated. 

He learned that because no one in the judicial phase of the justice system was really serious about stopping him, it must be okay to keep doing what he’s been doing.

And that’s just what he did...only more so. 

On May 22, the 18-year old was riding in car involved in a fatal auto accident where one individual fled the scene. 

Our suspect was arrested AGAIN, only now more heavily armed than ever before. In the car he was occupying, there were TWO STOLEN ASSAULT RIFLES and a .45 CALIBER PISTOL whose serial number he defaced.

Do you know why a criminal files the serial number off a gun? Because it is stolen, because it is being used in violent crimes and often because they plan to use that instrument as a murder weapon. That’s why.

I wonder what will our illustrious judges give him for that? Time served plus community service?  Plead him down to a fine for unlicensed metalworking? No television for a week, and this time we mean it?

Outrages like this force us to confront two hard truths about our society:

1. Guns are ridiculously easy to get. Buy, borrow or steal – they’re everywhere. Even a suspect under indictment for Unlawful Use of a Weapon who is dragging around a jailhouse ankle bracelet can build himself a lethal arsenal in no time flat.

2. Judges are accountable to virtually no one. They make the decisions and we get stuck living with the consequences. And no matter how bad those decisions turn out to be, they hold on to their jobs and their power.

To win the long battle against crime and violence in America, we probably need to see both of those facts change. But at the moment, I’d gladly settle for modest progress with either.

Because the arrangement we have right now is crazy enough that sometimes I think we couldn’t do worse if we just put a gun shop right outside the justice center and left the doors open at night.

And if that idea sounds shocking to you…well, now you know how I feel.

The presiding judge in the City of St. Louis is Bryan Hettenbach. Tell him how you feel.

P.S. Do you know what the bond is for our suspect for having a defaced firearm while awaiting trial for possession of a gun and resisting arrest? $2,500. SERIOUSLY. Thank Judge Calea Stovall-Reid.  Sarcasm intended. She wants a promotion. SERIOUSLY. 

The two stolen assault rifles and .45 caliber pistol with a defaced serial number seized from the vehicle the 18-year old criminal was occupying. 

Original arrest.

Original bond. 

Bond for most recent arrest. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Highly Responsive Police and City Services….We Have an App For That

Today we begin the roll out of SLMPD Mobile App, an application that lets you interact with city government and the police department the same convenient way you now browse for music, order a pizza online, get directions, buy a book or comment on a news story.

It does some important things.

The ALERT feature keeps you informed about time-sensitive events like general civic emergencies, and Amber or Saraa alerts. SUBMIT TIP allows you to quickly and easily report suspected criminal activity with the help of a drop-down screen, while giving you the choice whether to do so anonymously or by name. You can even include a picture.  A related tool, TIP CHAT, allows for two-way communication to follow up on any tips you submit.

The app also provides shortcuts that take you quickly to the department’s various social media sites, including our FACEBOOK page, YOUTUBE channel, the CHIEF’S BLOG, our TWITTER feed, along with INSTAGRAM and PERISCOPE.

But perhaps the most interesting feature is one that recognizes that crime-fighting goes far beyond the specific issues of deploying police officers. This feature, the CITIZEN’S SERVICE BUREAU, puts the full range of municipal public services in scrolling distance of your fingertips.  Anything the city does for its citizens, you can find here – animal control, fire inspection, parks, recreation centers, recycling, permits, street lights, trash removal, tree trimming, water service and more.

Linking all these functions together is more than just a matter of convenience. It’s also a matter of principle: it's good government.

The services to which your residency entitles you are meant to work together.

The problems we encounter in a modern major city like St. Louis are complex. They have many causes, and they often require multi-faceted solutions.

For example: when someone notices drug activity in a public area, bringing police to the scene is only part of a successful response. To stop the problem from recurring, we may need to do several different things, like removing graffiti, repairing street lights, clearing away branches, coordinating long-term prevention efforts with the parks department, etc. That means many different units of government pursuing the same goal, working together, and sharing information, both with the public and with each other.

This new app will also create a permanent, open pathway to make the process of asking questions easier. Clicking on OUR OFFICERS will let you explain why we failed to meet your expectations – or allow you to tell us how we met them.

There are 320,000 people in this city and 3,000,000 in the Greater St. Louis area. I hope this new technology can be a force that pulls us all closer together…we have an app for that!

Links to Download:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

30th Annual Memorial Breakfast - My Remarks

Good morning and thank for being here today to share in this tradition of remembrance for our fallen officers.

As is often the case, there are always special people to thank for their generous support, and again this year, we thank Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who have done so much to make sure this occasion, the 30th time we have come together to honor our fallen heroes, matches the nobility of its purpose.

This year, we recognize for the very first time Police Officer William E. Griffin, born on September 10th, 1898 and killed in the line of duty June 10th, 1923. He was shot at age 24. With the addition of Patrolman Griffin, the memorial roll for the Metropolitan Police Department in the City of St. Louis stands at 165.

Honoring the memory of those lost is a defining feature of who we are. Every culture has its own rituals, created so that people may come together, so we can remember.

Policing is a culture, in many ways its own. It's a brotherhood and a sisterhood. Unlike any other profession, we are unique. We’re unique in the work we do, in the tools we use, in the things we see, and above all, in the risks we share.

Most of the people in this room know exactly what I am talking about and can remember the exact moment when those risks became painfully real.

For me, it was Bob Stanze. We were Academy classmates. He was killed on Tuesday, August 8, 2000. It changed my life.

As we sit together this morning, I ask each of you to start by remembering the one…the officer who, in their death, taught you that the world was unfair and unjust. Remember that officer, and think back to what you felt in the moment of losing them.

That feeling is exactly what we have come here to preserve.

Yet at the same time, we must preserve something else: our sense of justice, our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, our compassion and most of all, their service.

In just the first four months of this year, there have been at least 16 of our fellow officers killed by gunfire in this country.

That is wrong.

Line of duty deaths are down in every other category, but the number of officers murdered by firearms is up over 100% year to date.

I say again, that is wrong.

Here in St. Louis, like you, I worry about our officers every day. In that same four month period, our officers have seized nearly 700 guns, many from the hands of criminals, up dramatically from this point last year.

When I think about those 700 lethal weapons taken off the street, I think about the lives made safer as a result. Today especially, I think: that's 700 fewer chances for anyone to take the life away from another member of our family.

Because the best way to honor our fallen is by guarding the safety of all who serve.

Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless our police officers.

St. Louis Police Foundation 2016 Memorial Breakfast Video