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.
Bond for most recent arrest.