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.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Not to Become a Homicide Victim

Violent crime – especially murders - often lead most newscasts in the St. Louis area.  The 30 second TV report doesn’t tell you much.  An 18 year-old was found shot to death.  A woman was found strangled in an apartment.  Police are looking for a blue Chevrolet driven by two males, armed with an assault rifle, etc.  This is what we hear night after night.

These short bursts of information from the media tend to give one the impression that we live in a very violent community.  We don’t.
After nearly 33 years in this business, which includes a stint in homicide, I have a few suggestions on how you can keep from being a homicide victim:
  1. Don’t involve yourself in the drug trade.
  2. Don’t carry an illegal firearm.
  3. Remove yourself from domestic situations where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
  4. Remove yourself from a household that has someone with untreated mental illness where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
If you happen to be in a rough neighborhood and are purchasing narcotics, bad things can happen. However, it has nothing to do with the neighborhood and everything to do with what you were doing when it happened.  Make sense?   
Most of the time, the public never finds out what the victim was doing when the murder happened.  We know what happened, but out of respect for the family, we rarely disclose those facts to the media.  Police work hard to solve these crimes, as nobody deserves to be a homicide victim. 
With all of this said, there are very rare instances where a murder happens and the victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One example I can think of recently was the Megan Boken murder last summer in the Central West End. 

Megan was truly an innocent victim.  Most people who heard about the Boken case said to themselves, “This could have been me or my daughter.”  That’s what made her murder particularly disturbing and tragic.  Any child death also fits into this category - although many of the child deaths are as a result of something the child's parent was doing that fits into 1 - 4 above.

Again, these kinds of random or innocent homicides are very unusual and yes, the police do work these kinds of cases with particular passion and vigor.  Isn’t that what you’d expect of us?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lethal Injection or Gas Chamber??

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster suggested this week that execution in the gas chamber might have to be reinstated.  It seems that we’re running out of the drugs needed to execute condemned killers by lethal injection. 

Barbara Jo Wood's workplace
On a frigid January in 1994, Barbara Jo Wood, a loving mother and grandmother, arrived at South County Mall to work her part-time job.  After she parked her car, two men approached and abducted her at gunpoint from the parking lot.  As it turns out, one of the men was Stanley Hall.  Stanley and his partner needed a car to do a drive-by shooting.  They selected Barbara’s car.  Why Barbara?  She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The two men drove her around St. Louis for a few hours, trying to decide how to get rid of her.  They didn’t want to just release her, fearing she would call the police and they would get caught in her stolen car.  As they drove around, Barbara showed them photographs of her grandchildren, quietly begging for her life.
Stanley Hall and his partner made a decision.  Let’s shoot her and throw her off the McKinley Bridge downtown.  With very little traffic on the bridge late in the January night, Stanley and his partner ordered Barbara out of the car.  Knowing what was going to happen, Barbara fought for her life.  She was shot multiple times.  Stanley picked her up and threw her over the rail into the icy Mississippi.  Scared, Stanley’s partner drove off as traffic approached, leaving Stanley on the bridge. 

Stanley was picked up on the Illinois side of the bridge by the Venice Police, but denied any crimes.  At this point, nobody knew Barbara Wood had been abducted and there was no body recovered.  Investigation soon revealed that the incident on the bridge actually occurred in Missouri.  Stanley Hall was turned over to St. Louis County Police when it was determined the initial crime started in South County.

All of these details are forever embedded in my memory.  I was in our Homicide Unit at the time and Stanley Hall was turned over to my partner and I for investigation.  Stanley eventually told us many of the details.  In 1996, Stanley was found guilty of these crimes and a death sentence was announced.  He overturned a table in the courtroom and tried to run.  Years and years of legal wrangling then commenced. 

Finally, in 2005, Stanley Hall and Lady Justice met at the Potosi prison.  As Stanley’s family flashed gang signs and danced to loud music in front of a large window near him, he received several quick injections and permanently closed his eyes.  As a witness for the state, I was also watching.
Gas or lethal injection?  No matter how Missouri decides to execute our evil killers, it will be too good for them.  I’m sure Barbara’s family is with me on this.  All of us can only hope we die so easily. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Mistake to Share Police Services?

Credit (Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Earlier this week, St. Louis (City) Police Chief Sam Dotson and I announced a new partnership.  We’ll combine our Bomb & Arson Units on July 1.  I’ll have to admit that I was surprised at the number of angry phone calls, comments and email I received after the media reported the agreement.  St. Louis County is “going down the tubes” according to one caller.  “We are taking money from the county and subsidizing the city” said another.  "This is just another example of the county's decline" wrote a South County resident.  A few politicians (and some who think they're politicians) also questioned my decision.

For those reading from outside of the St. Louis area, county police headquarters is about 8 miles from city police headquarters.  Each jurisdiction has always had separate Bomb & Arson functions.  We have identical equipment; most of it purchased since September 11, 2001 with federal funds.  Everything related to this unit is expensive.  One example is the bomb containment vessel, which costs more than $600,000.  We each have one.  We have bomb robots and bomb suits.  So does the city.  Someday, we will have to replace all of it.  It’s pretty clear that federal money won’t be available in the future.
Training for these specialized detectives is expensive.  Our training and certifications are identical to theirs.  We have four detectives and a sergeant and the city has four detectives and a sergeant.  Each department spends tens of thousands of dollars in overtime covering the time periods when no detective is on-duty.  With a combined unit, Bomb & Arson detectives will coordinate their schedules to cover more of the day with on-duty personnel, saving each agency overtime dollars. 

If you find a pipe bomb in your mailbox, do you care what the police patch says on the responding detective’s shoulder? The agreement sounds like a no-brainer right?  I thought so; but that was my mistake.  I guess what I forgot to do was to inject politics and fear into my decision.  Sorry about that.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

St. Clair County Judicial Crisis

Judge Michael "Bad" Cook
This week we take a trip across the Mississippi to St. Clair County, Illinois to see how the judiciary is handling their drug crisis.  As you know, one St. Clair County Judge, Joseph Christ has died from a cocaine overdose.  Another one, Michael “Bad is my middle name” Cook has been arrested and stepped down from the bench.  St. Clair County Probation Officer James Fogarty is also in a jam for providing the cocaine.  All of this is because of illegal drug use.  Well, it’s not just about the drugs – it’s about addiction and power.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I grew up in St. Clair County and worked for a county municipality prior to moving to St. Louis County in 1983.  Everybody on the East Side knows the "Cook" name.  Lawyer Bruce Cook (Judge Michael’s father), was always the “go to” guy for anyone wanting to be involved in county politics.  It should be no surprise that Bruce’s son went to law school, and before long, was named to the bench in St. Clair County.  It was a sure bet.    

As a young police officer, I was scared to death of judges.  No disrespect to the Court, but later in life I learned that a judge was really just a lawyer with political connections (insert Michael Cook’s name here).  That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  Many lawyers, who happen to have political connections, earn the title, “Your Honor.”  Others get the title, but they don’t earn it.  Those are the ones that can’t properly handle the power that comes with the position.  They start taking risks and believe they're really special or above the law.

With that said, this goes for anyone in a high profile position.  Just look at the number of actors, politicians, clergy, judges and yes, police officers that turn to addictive alcohol and drugs.  If a person has addictive tendencies - power, recognition or authority can push them over the edge.  Experience tells me this is the situation in St. Clair County. 
At least Bruce Cook has a chance to live his life with his son being part of it.  Too bad the family of Judge Joe Christ won’t have the same opportunity. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Special Memorial Day

Memorial Day has always been special to my family.  Many relatives have served in the U.S. military.  This tradition continues today.  My sister, who is career Army, just returned from another overseas deployment.  She’s been serving for almost 30 years and is a Chief Warrant Officer 5.  Not having served in the military myself, I understand that rank is a pretty big deal.  Her soldiers call her “Chief.”  Her son, a Marine, received the Purple Heart for injuries received in Afghanistan.  Another nephew, also a Marine, returned safely from Afghanistan last year.  I could go on and on.  That’s the life of a military family.

Ryan Fitch with his Afghani interpreter
So, why is this Memorial Day special?  It’s because my own son returned to U.S. soil last week from a six month deployment to Afghanistan.  My wife and I still haven’t been able to see him.  He’s in Arizona at his base.  His wife (and dog) stayed with us while he was deployed.  It was a rough time for her.  All the missed holidays, birthdays, etc.  He knew what he was getting into, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  We’re just glad he’s home safely.  That’s the life of a military family. 

While working a shift at the Lambert USO this past Friday night, I spoke with a Marine who missed his connecting flight on the way to his home in Florida.  It wasn’t just any missed flight.  It was a flight to get married the next day.  He had to call his fiancĂ© to break the bad news.  He wouldn’t be there in time to greet the 250 invited guests.  That’s the life of a military family.
The men and women of our military would tell you that they’re just doing their job.  I think it’s much more than that.  One only needs to visit Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery for proof.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fake Uplands Park Officer Acquitted

In 2009, Uplands Park “Officer” Lamont Aikens was driving a police car at high speed in a pursuit that ended tragically when the car he was chasing crashed and killed an innocent motorist – a mother of four.  Aikens was wearing a police uniform and carrying a weapon, according to the St. Louis City detective who investigated the crash.  The report filed by Aikens referred to himself as a “police officer.”  A fellow Uplands Park officer said that Aikens drove a police car by himself and made arrests.  Aikens wrote traffic tickets, but would sign another officer’s name to the tickets.

So, what’s the problem? 
The problem is that Aikens never attended a police academy.  By law, he couldn't function or act as a police officer.  He probably could have attended the police academy, but presumably because of his 18 arrests (including two felonies), he didn’t. 

This didn’t stop officials in Uplands Park from putting him to work in a police car.  His pursuit that night cost the 450 residents of Uplands Park $3.1 million, which was awarded in a lawsuit.  That’s about $7,000 for every man, woman and child living in the tiny cash-strapped village.  They don’t even have enough insurance to cover the damages.
On Friday, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Dennis Smith acquitted Aikens of acting as a police officer without a valid peace officer license.  I do not know Judge Smith and I will not question his authority.  But, really, what would it take to convict someone of this type of crime?  Aikens defense was that he was following city policy that allowed him to act as a police officer, so long as he had a “real” police officer seated next to him.  I’ll have to remember that one next time I find an unlicensed driver operating a motor vehicle with a licensed driver next to him.  But I digress.
A few months ago, the Uplands Park Village Board voted to disband their police department for financial reasons (imagine that).  All Uplands Park police personnel were dismissed and Velda City was hired to provide police services. 

Now, here’s the next tragedy about to happen:  The newly elected Uplands Park Village Board is working hard to bring back their police department.  It might happen in the next few weeks.
That’s great news for “Officer” Lamont Aikens.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Honor, Duty & Dedication

Today, at our Annual Police Memorial Service in Clayton, we recognized the sacrifice of the nine St. Louis County police officers who have died in the line of duty.  This is the start of National Police Week, which was proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy.  I knew six of the officers who died.  I’ve gotten to know their families very well over the years. 

Each year, I see the children of Sgt. Rick Weinhold (Killed in the Line of Duty on October 31, 2000) growing into young adults.  Rick’s widow, Julie, said that both of her sons want to be county police officers when they finish college.  Imagine the courage of a woman who lost her husband in a vicious shooting allowing her children to become police officers.  She is one of the strongest women I know.   

After today’s Memorial Service, we had our monthly Police Board meeting.  At the meeting, I was honored to present awards to several of our officers.  One of the officers was recognized with a “Lifesaving Award.”   The officer performed CPR and saved the life of a man at the South County Mall.  Just two hours after receiving his award, this same officer was in a life or death shootout in Eureka.  Thankfully, he wasn't seriously injured.  This is the life of a police officer.  Things can and will change in a heartbeat.
The dedication of our officers never ceases to amaze me.  They have every right to question their commitment to the profession, after going four years without a pay raise, higher insurance rates and constant public scrutiny.  But they keep on going.  When the call for help goes out, they respond.  Thank God. 

Here’s hoping for a safe Police Week.  We had another close call today.  Keep our officers in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Come on May 30th !!!

Now that the Kentucky Derby is over, it’s time to root for something else:  Come on May 30th.  Come on May 30th.
What’s the big deal about May 30th?  It’s the Missouri General Assembly’s official adjournment.  They have to shut down by midnight.  Why should the St. Louis County police chief be concerned about the end of a legislative season?  It’s not the end of it that I’m worried about.  It’s what happens between now and then.
House Bill 46 has been perfected and sent to the Senate.  It was sponsored by Rep. Casey Guernsey, a farmer from western Missouri.  What will the bill do?  It will essentially shut down flight operations for Metro Air Support, which is made up of St. Louis City and County Police and the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department.  Many of you have seen the helicopters of Metro Air Support in the sky over crime scenes, vehicle pursuits and looking for lost children.
Why does a farmer from western Missouri care about airborne law enforcement in St. Louis?  He doesn’t.  He’s mostly afraid of unmanned drones roaming our skies.  However, the bill was tweaked to include “manned” law enforcement flights, unless officers have reasonable suspicion and believe they need to take to the air to prevent imminent danger to life.  That’s a pretty high hurdle in order to get into the air. 

The paranoia in Jefferson City this session has gotten silly.  Perhaps I’d be okay with the legislature banning manned law enforcement aircraft over Missouri under one circumstance:  They can only ban the black helicopters with the darked out windows circling overhead. 
Come on May 30th !!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Violent Attack at Meramec College

First of all, let me say that I only know of accounts of the recent violent assault case on the Meramec campus of St. Louis Community College in Kirkwood via the media.  Everybody, including Chancellor Myrtle Dorsey, realizes that the incident should have been handled differently.  As you probably know, an 18 year-old male student was eventually charged with felony assault against a 19 year-old female student.  Campus police released the suspect before having the incident reviewed by prosecutors, according to press reports.  I’ve met Chancellor Dorsey on several occasions and I have no doubt that when this case came to light, she took the right corrective action.

As the father of a daughter who attends Meramec, my only question is how do you prevent this from happening again?  I don’t mean the actual crime – I mean how the next incident will be handled by the school and its campus police force.  And there will be more incidents.  There are a lot of students on that campus and bad things are bound to happen.  My guess is we still wouldn’t know about this particular incident if the victim’s family hadn’t gone to the media.

In any event, we’ve experienced the same issues with some schools in our patrol areas.  Many would rather handle crimes as “school violations” instead of notifying the police and having charges placed on the student.  This goes on more than you realize.  Schools, like most institutions that rely on public support for funding, do not want to look bad or admit they have problems for fear that their next bond issue or tax increase might not pass.  One only needs to look at my local district (Rockwood) for proof.

There was a time a few years ago when we had to threaten a local school superintendent and principal with prosecution under the Missouri Safe Schools Act for failing to report acts of violence in their school to police authorities.  They didn’t take us seriously until we brought a prosecutor to the school to let them know we (and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office) meant business.  Things have gotten much better in that district since then.  I saw the same resistance from some districts when we started our heroin initiative in 2010 and asked to hold Town Hall meetings in school auditoriums.  One local district chastised me for even suggesting that schools were in denial about their drug problems.
Serious crimes like the one at Meramec happen infrequently.  That’s a good thing.  The bad part of handling crimes infrequently is knowing what to do with them when they happen (see Ebony Jackson murder case).  My suggestion would be to turn over any felony crime that occurs on the Meramec campus to the Kirkwood Police.  They are effective, professional and investigate a lot of felony crimes.  They also are not beholden to image-conscious bosses at the campus.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Old Dog - New Tricks

Okay, it's time for change.  You CAN teach old dogs new tricks. 

After more than 30 years in this business, social media is changing how we communicate with each other.  When I first started in law enforcement (1980), we had two daily newspapers (the Post and the Globe) and about five television stations.  The police rarely admitted to crime happening, let alone initiate a news story. 

Today, we have one daily paper, but I counted over 600 cable stations on TV, with at least 20 dedicated to some sort of news or what they call news.  News sources on the Internet are too many to count.  Do we really need that many news organizations?  I digress. 

The bottomline is that people are no longer getting their news from just a few sources.  They get much of it from Internet and social media sites.  With that said, I've embraced "some" social media.  I have a Facebook account and Tweet quite often.  That's not enough.   

Many have asked why I haven't set up a blog like Chief Sam Dotson (St. Louis City PD).  I told them that I didn't know how to set up a blog and that Chief Dotson was (much) younger and more tech savvy than me.  I said I would try to learn.  Take my word for it - nobody at my offices in Clayton could help.

Here's my first attempt.  I'll do my best not to get myself in trouble by saying exactly what's on my mind.  However, if I do, it certainly won't be the first time.  Wish me luck.