Friday, December 13, 2013

Announcing My Retirement

After having the privilege of serving the citizens of St. Louis County for more than 30 years, I have notified the Board of Police Commissioners of my intent to retire in February 2014. 
It’s been said that the best time to leave is when you still love what you are doing.  That’s how I can describe my entire career.  Retiring from this position was not an easy decision. However, I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to start my own public safety consulting group.  My family and I are looking forward to the next part of our lives in the world of private business.
I truly believe that the men and women serving at the St. Louis County Police Department are the best in the nation.  Due to their hard work, crime in the past five years is at historical lows.  It has been an honor to work side-by-side with these professionals since 1983 and to have served as their Chief since 2009.  We have worked hard to internally develop many well-qualified commanders that can easily take the helm of this proud agency. 
Finally, I want to personally thank the Board of Police Commissioners, County Executive, County Council and the people of St. Louis County for allowing me to serve for so many years.      
Colonel Tim Fitch, Chief of Police

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why Would our Kids Be Confused?

This week, the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced it would prohibit alcohol sales at events primarily catering to kids.  It seems that the adults on Lindell Boulevard want to stop sending messages to our kids that alcohol is required to have a good time.  As a Catholic and occasional beer connoisseur, I don’t have a problem with the new rule. 
At the same time, Missouri and New York are among the states that have been targeted to be the next to legalize certain uses of marijuana.  Also this week, New York City announced that it wants to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, as they apparently want to discourage young people from smoking. 
Did I get that right?  New York wants to raise the age to use tobacco, at the same time their adults are considering legalization of marijuana?  Do these same adults know that you have to SMOKE marijuana to get it into your system?
With the St. Louis area in the grips of four-year heroin epidemic, I’ve learned a lot from those caught up with this addiction.  Most start with tobacco, then alcohol, then marijuana, then opiate prescription medicine abuse, then heroin, then death for those that don’t break the downhill spiral.  I’m not saying that everyone that uses tobacco, alcohol and marijuana eventually turns to heroin.  What I am saying is that nearly every heroin addict I’ve met went down this path.
By the way, I don’t claim to know what the answer is.  However, I’m fairly certain that young people don’t know exactly what we adults are trying to teach them.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Let's Play "Hide the Speed Camera"

If fleecing motorists with visible speed cameras in 15 north county municipalities wasn't bad enough, now there's a new, even more secret way to get into your wallet you as you drive through at least one these cash-strapped towns:  Welcome to Country Club Hills.

What does this innocent white box look like to you? 

Courtesy:  KMOV
You might think it's a traffic signal control device.  It's designed this way for a reason. 

So you don't notice it. 

I'm a little surprised they haven't designed one that looks like a tree or a flag pole.  The first time you'll realize a camera is there, is when the ticket comes in the mail. 

Remember, the mayors and councils of these communities are interested in your safety, not the money these cameras bring into their city coffers.  

If you don't believe it's for safety, pick up a copy of the St. Louis American newspaper this week.  There's a large paid ad in the paper that proves it's for safety.  The headline is, "Speed Cameras Save Lives."  Incidentally, at the bottom of the ad, in much smaller print, you can see the ad was paid for by "St. Louis County Municipalities."  What it should have said was, "Paid for by St. Louis County Municipalities that need your money."

Their usual argument is, "Don't speed and you won't get a ticket."  That's partially true.  However, when you put an artificially low speed limit on a major roadway, it's almost impossible NOT to speed.  They know that.  The cameras are well-placed in order to generate as many violations as possible.  Some cameras are set up to issue tickets for going as little as 3mph over the speed limit.  Most cops know the speed limits are too low on many major streets, so they compensate by tolerating a higher speed before issuing a ticket.  I cannot remember ever issuing a speeding ticket unless it was for more than 10mph over the limit.  On major roads or on hills, you might tolerate more, depending on the normal flow of traffic.  Cameras have no discretion.  They cannot educate a motorist on the dangers of speeding.  They can only issue tickets.

Want to know why you don't see speed cameras on subdivision streets?  Not enough traffic or enough violators to pay for the camera and make money for the town.  Also, the last thing you want to do is start issuing tickets to town residents who can vote out the elected officials.  You really have to put them on major roads that pass through town, so you get non-residents. 

I still say they should put these speed cameras up at the intersection of I-270 and Highway 40 in West County.  There's enough influential people that drive that route every day that can afford the resources needed to ban them.  These big-dollar motorists could get together, hire a lobbying firm, make big campaign contributions to elected officials and get them banned from our state.  By the way, that's how the camera companies stay in business. 

As long as municipalities and private camera companies continue to feed off of some of the poorest people in the St. Louis region, it would appear that nobody really cares.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goodbye Mr. Castro

It's safe to say after working in the police business for more than 30 years, a cop's view on life and death becomes somewhat skewed.  I can't explain it; it just happens.

I've worked many suicides in my career; especially when assigned to the homicide unit.  The vast majority were tragic.  For the most part, suicide can be described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  The victim's family needlessly suffers.  Those families endure lifelong guilt and question themselves about how they might have prevented the suicide.  I feel for them.  Always have.

With that said, I also believe true evil exists in this world of ours.  Ariel Castro is an example of that evil.  The horrors he put those innocent young women through cannot be adequately described.

Ariel Castro
However, for once in his life, Mr. Castro did the right thing.  What's unfortunate is that he didn't consider this move about ten years ago, before he ruined the lives of his victims.  Case closed.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

P.S. to Bill McClellan

Hopefully you had a chance to read Bill McClellan's column today in the Post-Dispatch.  Even as kids, my dad told us that people will have a good time with our last name and the word it rhymes with.  Well played Bill, well played. 

At any rate, you might guess that those who feel threatened by this whole situation aren't just going to sit back and see what happens.  I had a front row seat when they went after Chief Jerry Lee.  I've seen this movie.  Back then, they also went after the employees in the police department.  Suddenly, our requests for training and travel were being denied.  Officer misconduct was being purposely leaked.  The price you pay for speaking out.  Chief Lee is a decent and honorable man, but he knew he had to give in so they wouldn't continue to interfere with the operations and reputation of his department.

My own experience of how this works is when I became vocal about speed cameras.  Those who felt threatened when I called for a county-wide vote to ban the cameras hired a political research company to review my taxes, work expenditures and anything else they could find to discredit me or the police department.  Those who actually hired the research company would never ask for the records themselves.  They hide behind a political research company, so nobody will know who's paying them.  That's how this stuff works.  

The best they could come up with is the fact that I promoted several officers who were named in a 2008 lawsuit that the county counselor's office settled out of court for $46,000.  This was a case where it was alleged that the officers used force and the suspect died.  Really?  Do you think if the officers actually caused a death, any plaintiff's lawyer would have settled for $46,000? 

The political researcher wrote his own news story about the lawsuit and promotions and anonymously mailed it to the Post-Dispatch, along with a "rumor" that I was contemplating running for county executive.  Good one.  That's the best he could come up with?  The political consultant is a former Post-Dispatch reporter and is known for his skill in research.  Somebody was paying him good money to find dirt on me.  He paid $250 just for my travel records.  You haven't seen a story about my travel records, so one can assume I didn't go to Hawaii on the county's dime.

So, here we go again.  More requests last week for my travel records, expenses, etc.  The people doing it this time should get with the political researcher from last year and compare notes.  It will save county government employees a lot of time.  If they can't successfully find some scandal about me, they will do their best to find misdeeds of my family and/or the 1,100 employees who belong to the county police family.  I wish them all the luck in the world.  

Here's some news for them; we are not perfect, but neither are they.  We can withstand the scrutiny.  This is a dirty game, but it's the only way they know how to play it.  They go after those who are disloyal or threaten the status quo.  You can bet that I'll keep you posted as the games continue.

In the meantime, you can count on us to continue to work hard to keep our community safe and serve the needs of our citizens.  Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Police Officer's Duty

After 33 years working full-time in this business, I'll have to admit, this past week was one of the toughest.  It's right up there with the two times I had to use deadly force in the line of duty - and those were life or death situations.  Making a tough decision like I did a few days ago is even more dangerous for a police chief than being in a shoot-out with a suspect.  At least with a suspect, you have great training in advance for the event and can wear body armor to prevent death or injury.   
Doesn't sound quite right does it?
In any event, it's time that we review the solemn oath of a Police Officer:
On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.
Before any officer takes the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, it is important that he/she understands what it means. An oath is a solemn pledge someone makes when he/she sincerely intends to do what he/she says.  Our oath is a heavy burden.
Honor means that one's word is given as a guarantee.
Betray is defined as breaking faith with the public trust.
Integrity is being the same person in both private and public life.
Character means the qualities that distinguish an individual.
Public trust is a charge of duty imposed in faith toward those you serve.
Courage is having the strength to withstand unethical pressure, fear or danger.
Accountability means that you are answerable and responsible to your oath of office.

Now you know why I made the decision I made. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Okay to Laugh Sometimes

Since the weather has been so great and people are in a good mood, it's time to laugh a little. There can be so much heartache in the day-to-day life of a cop. However, this profession also lends itself to some humor as well. Cops tend to marry other cops or at least someone in a profession that can stand the pressures, long hours, holidays away from the family and some of the wild things we deal with every day that skews an otherwise normal existence.

I' ve been married for 27 years to a wonderful person that puts up with me and our crazy life. Ruth is a RN at a local hospital, working in Labor & Delivery. You might guess that there are many parallels between law enforcement and nursing. A lot of cops are married to nurses.

The hospital where she works gets a lot of interesting people in there to deliver.  Think Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty.  Recently, Ruth was putting an electronic monitor on the ankle of a newborn. They use these to make sure newborns aren't taken past a security point. The baby was crying while the akle monitor was being attached. The baby's father was trying to calm his new daughter and said, "It's going to be alright honey...Daddy's got one just like that."

It's okay to laugh. You just can't make this stuff up.