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.