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