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.