Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Positive Story Goes Bad

In a recent Post-Dispatch editorial, editorial writer Kevin Horrigan wrote what could have been a positive story about in-car cameras and the Department’s efforts to be more transparent. Instead Mr. Horrigan pinned an editorial to further support the newspaper’s position on local control. Read below my letter to the Editor of the Post-Dispatch.


It's unfortunate for St. Louis that the Post-Dispatch has a monopoly on print media.  Monopolies are dangerous for free societies and economic markets in a democracy. Free speech must have a diversity of voices.  It's clear that the Post, particularly editorial writer Kevin Horrigan, has a position in favor of local control. That is a matter for the people to decide and they will have that opportunity in November.  The problem with the Post’s monopoly position is that instead of educating and informing the public on the best governing practices in the wake of local control, the Post's strategy instead has been to spin issues and present false information to discredit the Police Department and it's employees who perform the most difficult job in society - urban policing - to make its case for local control.

In the papers most recent article about the St. Louis Police Department's in-car cameras, Post editorial writer, Kevin Horrigan sank to a new low. In his attempt to further support his position on local control, he spins a positive into a negative and takes his editorial license as authorization to simply provide false information. How Mr. Horrigan can take an article explaining the benefits of the Departments in-car camera system, which is the height of transparency and accountability, and turn it into a negative by slamming the department which is under state control is beyond explanation. As much as I believe the in-car camera system will ultimately make the Police Department an even better organization, I am sure it would take a while for Post reporters, or any other profession for that matter, to accept management video recording their entire work day.  Significant changes in transparency and accountability are difficult in every organization, not just the St. Louis Police Department, and have nothing to do with being under State control.

In his effort to spin the Department's self evaluation and improvement into another reason for local control Mr. Horrigan fails to point out that as a Major I recommended to the then Chief and Board that the Police Department commission an officer involved shooting review.  The request was approved and the recommendations of the report, which he cites in the article, were implemented by the current administration.  However, Mr. Horrigan does not present this as a positive change, but instead chooses to dwell on, “how it was.”  Any organization, including police departments, that work to discover weakness and better methods for improvement, and make the necessary policy changes to support those improvements, is a sign of a healthy and progressive organization.

Mr. Horrigan further pushes his agenda for local control by including another unrelated issue to an article regarding in-car cameras, by falsely stating that I can increase the fire power of the force without the approval of the “state appointed” police Board of Commissioners.  This is simply untrue and calls into question the integrity of Mr. Horrigan's interviewing ethics and principles.  I happily agreed to Mr. Horrigan’s request for an interview regarding the in-car camera system. Although, he used none of my comments for his article he at least gave me an opportunity to respond and explain the Police Department's position.  However, Mr. Horrigan never once asked me about the use of force review or the fire power of the force that he writes about in his in-car camera article.  I can only guess that the reason Mr. Horrigan did not ask me about these issues is because he would have been faced with the truth and could not deny what he was printing was false. 

Since the multiple homicides shooting at ABB, the Board has been informed on several occasions that the Department was evaluating the need to change our weapon systems.  A presentation was made to the Board and individual Board members were consulted about the issue.  The Post Dispatch reporter Christine Byers previously wrote an article about this very issue. Additionally, both rifles and shotguns were previously approved by the Board.  The request and explanation for accepting the donation of weapons was included in the Board packet provided prior to the May Board meeting.  The weapons had not been purchased or approved prior to the Board meeting.  Missouri state law requires that government business be done in open meetings and not discussed, debated, and voted on behind closed doors.  A presentation was made to the Board at the May meeting explaining why the police department wanted new weapons with a recommendation.  The Board has the authority and responsibility to deny any request, amend recommendations, or table decisions and request more information if they believe it is not in the best interest of the Police Department and/or the citizens of St. Louis. They decided to approve the recommendation – the Board, not the Chief.  The Department followed that rule of law which promotes transparency and accountability.

At best this is yet another example of publishing false and unverified information to the public, and at worst out right lies.  It’s unfortunate that an article that began as a means to inform the public of some positive changes for the Police Department and the citizens of St Louis - the in-car camera system - turned out to be yet another public editorial criticism of the Department based on the publication of false information and/or outright untruths which unfortunately, due to the Posts monopoly of the print media in St Louis is dependent on the Post to rectify the false information.

Colonel Daniel Isom
Chief of Police

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Serving the Community

The end of the calendar year is a good time to reflect on what we have done well as a department, and what challenges we still face. Certainly there is more work to be done in our community. I am however; especially proud of the efforts we have made in terms of our Community Outreach efforts. Here are some of the highlights from recent months:

·On November 30 a graduation was held to honor the 33 individuals who completed the department’s Citizen Academy program. For the first time, a high school student was included in the class. In total, more than 160 individuals have completed the Citizens Academy since it was reinstated in 2009. The next class in tentatively scheduled for March 2012. For more information, visit the Citizens Academy page of our website.

·On December 3, 40 officers took part in our 2nd Annual Cops 4 Kids – Patrolling for Presents event. Pairs of officers teamed with 20 children who are involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Target Stores and the St. Louis Police Foundation provided funds so that each child could spend $150 on holiday presents for their families and themselves. The event also served as a recruitment event in hopes that officers will choose to serve as a permanent Big Brother or Sister to children in our community.

·On December 4, our Department Choir held its Second Annual Holiday Concert. Department employees, both civilian and commissioned, volunteer their time to the choir. Several members of the community also donate their time and voices for this cause. Since its inception in 2010, the choir has performed a number of concerts including two held as part of 9/11 tributes.

·Our department recently introduced the “Neighborhood Ownership Model” a partnership with the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. Neighborhoods in this program commit to assisting our department and the other agencies with a number of programs. Neighbors are trained in Citizen Patrols, take part in Court Watch and assist neighbors who have recently been victims of crimes. Neighborhoods interested in this program should contact our Community Outreach Unit at 444-5638.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solving the $6.7 Million Problem

It’s frustrating, it’s illegal and it’s expensive. When someone steals copper or downspouts from a residence, it may seem like a minor crime but to the victims of these crimes, it’s not minor at all. In the city of St. Louis, burglaries of scrap items are up by an astonishing 36%. Our Detectives have found that the criminals are most often stealing scrap items with the intent to sell their illegal haul to scrap metal dealers. In the past 18 months, we estimate that victims have lost at least $6.7 million due to metal-related thefts and burglaries. And that estimate is just the tip of the iceberg. It does not include the costs for repairs, the costs of the time victims take off work to get those repairs made or the costs of higher insurance premiums passed along to everyone.

The police department is fighting back. Our Rapid Deployment Unit—officers who supplement patrol officers—have identified and targeted some of the areas where these criminals seem to be striking most. Their supplemental patrols have led to several arrests of prolific scrap metal thieves. We’re also letting citizens know that if you spray paint your copper with identifiable markings or engrave your air condition unit with identifiable information, it often makes them less attractive targets for thieves. We’ve also spoken with hundred of citizens who are active in their neighborhood watch groups and who have made it known that they will do all they can to work with police to protect their neighborhoods. Still, what we believe would attack this problem more quickly than almost anything else, is a change in the law.

Our Detectives have found that many scrap metal thieves are stealing to feed a drug habit and in fact, many of those who we have arrested for stealing scrap metal have admitted that their goal was to get cash immediately in hopes of using that money to buy drugs immediately. While our undercover officers frequently work operations to identify and arrest drug dealers, another way to zero in on these scrap metal thefts is Board Bill 86. Board Bill 86 would require that scrap metal dealers pay by check, after a three-day wait. Sponsored by Alderwoman Donna Baringer and co-sponsored by Aldermen Charles Troupe, Larry Arnowitz, Fred Wessels, Jeffrey Boyd and Shane Cohn, Board Bill 86 would remove the one major incentive these scrap metal thieves have---getting paid in cash on the spot. While we believe a customer who is legally selling scrap metal won’t be deterred by a three-day wait, we believe those selling scrap to get quick cash for a quick high, WILL be deterred. The Bill would also require that scrap metal dealers computerize their records, just as pawn shops are required to do. This could be a useful tool for police who are attempting to identify those who may have sold stolen scrap metal just as pawn shop records allow us to identify those who have pawned stolen items.

When our police leaders have spoken to citizens and community groups about the scrap metal problems and Board Bill 86, there has been overwhelming support. Be sure to let your Alderman or Alderwoman know where you stand on Board Bill 86. It could be a major step in solving this multi-million dollar problem.

Read Board Bill 86 here

Find Your Alderman’s Contact Information here

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Violence in St. Louis?

Over the past 10 years, the City has experienced significant decreases in crime. Many people have asked why St. Louis has bucked the trend of higher crime in contrast to previous recessionary periods. With the results of the 2010 census, one might explain the drop as being based on the loss of 29,000 residents. This might be true in part, but St. Louis has been losing population for over 50 years, during which time the City has experienced periods of dramatic crime increases. I continue to proclaim and believe the overwhelming majority of citizens would agree, that police officers and the service they provide have a great deal to do with the explanation. In the past 10 years, the police department has answered an average of 300,000 (911) calls per year, made an average of 28,000 arrests per year, written more than a 100,000 reports per year, and performed an additional 300,000 self directed activities and community outreach contacts. In total, police officers’ activities add up to over 6 million police service contacts in 10 years. The hard work and dedication of St. Louis Police Officers has made a tremendous difference in our City.

Despite police officers’ herculean effort to rid our City of gangs, violence and drugs, crime has not fallen enough to change perceptions or the reality of high crime associated with far too many City neighborhoods. At a rate of over 28,000 arrests each year, the police department in 10 years has arrested the equivalent of the current population that resides in the City. The arrests range from minor city ordinance violations to serious felonies. The sheer volume of arrests would suggest the police department has at least arrested every gang member, violent offender or drug dealer once, twice and far too often, many times more.

What happens with these cases? How many are prosecuted? How many cases are dropped? Who decides or reviews these decisions? Are the offenders’ criminal histories thoroughly investigated for prosecution and sentencing? Is the system sufficiently focused on zero tolerance for repeat, gang, gun and violent offenders? Do the sentences reflect the criminal history of the defendant? Is the type of probation that erases felony convictions over used? Are the appropriate levels of supervision and sanctions applied to offenders on probation or parole? Is the judge actively managing probation and parolees assigned to his/her court?

Certainly, arrests are not the only solution to reducing crime but they are a significant component. The goal of arresting individuals is for the system to work in concert to impose swift and certain consequences that modify or suppress criminal behavior. The police are part of a large criminal justice system that includes Prosecutors, juries, Judges and Corrections. We all have the capacity to improve and grow from constructive questions concerning our operations and this is the intent.

The St. Louis Police Department will continue to work with these entities to make our system effective at protecting our community. The IBM Smart Cities Initiative will be an excellent catalyst to rethink how the criminal justice system operates and evaluates its success as a team.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don’t Believe the Hype

There are dozens of reasons why the FBI, the American Society of Criminology and the Criminal Justice Journalists caution against attempts to use statistics to “rank” cities in terms of crimes. For starters, there is no standard definition of a city for one thing. Where the boundary lines are drawn can make a significant impact. For example, the City of St. Louis is 62 square miles. The City of Detroit on the other hand, is 138 square miles. The City of Phoenix is 515 square miles. When looking at just those numbers, it’s ludicrous to compare a city with 62 square miles to one with 515 square miles. The larger the geographic boundary, the more economically diverse a city tends to be. If you want to see our complete response to these bogus rankings, click here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Say

A recent article in the Post-Dispatch questioned the Department’s crime statistics. As I told the Post-Dispatch, I stand behind our statistics and reporting methods. Read my say here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Welcome A”Board”

Today marks the first Board meeting for a newly appointed member of the Board of Police Commissioners. Former St. Louis County Chief of Police Jerry Lee comes to the Board with more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement, both as a police officer and as the leader of a large police agency. He joins Dr. Michael Gerdine who is a chiropractor and a successful small-business owner, Mr. Richard Gray who is heavily involved in our community as the Executive Director of the St. Louis Gateway Sports Foundation and former Judge Bettye Battle-Turner who is now an attorney in private practice following her years on the bench as a municipal judge. Board members are appointed by the Governor of Missouri with the exception of Mayor Francis Slay who is an ex-officio member, which means he is a part of the Board by virtue of the fact that he is Mayor of St. Louis. St. Louis City Mayor’s have always been ex-officio members who have the same voting rights as all members of the Board appointed by the Governor. I look forward to continuing to work with the Board to accomplish the goals of our police department, to manage the business of our police department and to continue our efforts in making the City of St. Louis an even safer place for your families and mine.