Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Results Are In

In May, 900 of you completed a telephone survey about the Metropolitan Police Department. Our hope was that the survey would help us learn what you thought we were doing well, where we might need to focus resources or attention and what issues concerned you most. The survey results are posted in their entirety on this site but here is what we’ve learned.

Three-fourths of you are satisfied with the Department overall. Three-fourths of you feel safe in your neighborhoods. Three-fourths of you are satisfied with the overall competence of the Department. 80% of you complimented the professionalism of the employees who answer your 911 calls and 86% of you said our police officers are pleasant and courteous. That is a true compliment to the men and women of this Department who work so hard to protect all of St. Louis. Still, we’d like to see those numbers rise even higher and we’re committed to working hard to do that.

There were also some areas where we need to focus our attention. For example, 38% of you said you weren’t satisfied with our efforts to get drugs off the street. We hear you and are responding. The Narcotics Unit has recently completed extensive training and has a new focus—street-level drug transactions. For many years, the Department focused on higher-level offenders who were moving larger quantities of drugs. We will continue to go after those suppliers, but you are saying to us that the drug dealers moving smaller quantities in our neighborhoods on street corners or from their homes are your priority. They will be the priority of the Narcotics Unit as well. I also want to encourage you to take advantage of our “Secret Witness Hotline.” This hotline is different from CrimeStoppers. You call CrimeStoppers to report information about a specific criminal incident, for example a shooting you witnessed or a burglary you have information about. The Secret Witness Hotline is the number you’ll call if you believe there is drug activity in your neighborhood and you want to make sure we know about it. You can help us by describing the people and activity you see. When is the activity taking place? Is there a certain car you always see? Are people going inside a residence, to the back of a residence or are they staying in their vehicles? We don’t want you to conduct surveillance—that’s for trained police officers to do—but if you live in an area where drug activity is occurring, you likely see things when you walk out your front door that could help us. Call us at 241-COPS and tell us about it. The Secret Witness Hotline is anonymous and the line is not recorded.

You also said you want us to focus more attention on community outreach efforts. Today, we are beginning our first Citizens Academy since 2005. We received more than 70 applications for just 30 spots! This Academy offers citizens an opportunity to spend 30 hours over a period of 10 weeks, with police officers. Citizens will learn everything from how 911 calls are handled to how a patrol officer spends a “typical” day, (although no day is ever really “typical”), to how specialized units like Bomb & Arson and Homicide work. It is an opportunity for you to get more insight than ever before into your police department. Although the Fall 2009 class is already full, we will let you know when we are planning to begin the Spring 2010 class. We have also recently retrained our Community Outreach Officers. These officers are the ones you meet at community meetings, they can help you organize a Neighborhood Watch and this fall they will begin working with St. Louis Public School students. We will continue to look for more opportunities to bring the police and the community together through outreach programs.

You also sent a message to us regarding honesty and integrity. I have no doubt that this is likely a direct result of some of the unfortunate incidents over the past year. I have said over and over that when it comes to law enforcement, the actions of the few can taint the reputations of the many. The overwhelming majority of our officers are honest, dedicated and committed to serving this community with the highest of ethical standards. I also hope that you have taken notice that many of the incidents that have come to light in recent months, have done so because of our own commitment to policing ourselves. We started the investigations. We will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing and will continue our efforts to root out any and all persons who abuse the very laws that each of us is sworn to uphold.

Finally, I want you to know that we take your concerns to heart. We are determined to make a strong impression on the citizens of St. Louis and to send a strong message to the criminals—the Department and the community are a united front. We will work together to prevent crime. We will work together to solve crime. We will make our community a safer place to live, work and play. We will not tolerate anything less.