Study: St. Louis police adopting reactionary ‘fire-fighting’ mentality as crime explodes – and it could be catastrophic

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ST. LOUIS, MO – A recently released study of the St. Louis metropolitan and county police agencies is showing that those agencies have adopted more of a fire-fighting mentality—that of “respond[ing] reactively to all calls for service in the absence of a clearly-articulated organizational plan.”

The study was commissioned by the St. Louis Regional Business Council and companies affiliated with Civic Process, a coalition of local businesses whose mission seeks to improve the St. Louis metropolitan region, the St. Louis American reported.

The 42-page report revealed that the police departments’ employees believe the agencies lack cohesion and unity.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, and Chief of Police John Hayden announced the results of the study, which was released publicly last Monday.

Chief Hayden and Mayor Krewson declined to be interviewed about the results of the study; Krewson’s media spokesman Jacob Long said she had not yet finished reviewing the report, while Edwards did not return calls from the outlet for comment.

The study was conducted by Teneo Risk, which provides risk consulting and risk advisory services.

The study outlined the history of the police department and its struggle with violent crime. The study found that St. Louis had seen significant increases in murder and aggravated assaults involving firearms in recent years, while the department only enjoys a 25% solve rate, far below the national average of 60%.

In 2020, the city has experienced 247 murders, which is 17% higher than the last most violent year, 1993. This follows a national trend this year where crime has skyrocketed in major cities from New York to Chicago and Los Angeles.

The report did recognize two considerable advancements, including the implementation of body-worn cameras this past November and the implementation of a new records management system called SwiftProtect, expected to be completed next year.

In completing the study, the study’s facilitators interviewed major St. Louis-area businesses, government, law enforcement, and community leaders.

The study showed that officers believed there was a lack of cohesion at the executive level, which led to uncertainty surrounding who is actually in command during events such as protests, as well as who is actually making decisions such as when to use military-style weapons, ammunition, and equipment during those demonstrations.

Because of the lack of cohesion and any type of established plan to reduce the exploding crime rate, the study found that officers do not conduct proactive law enforcement activities but rather find themselves in so-called “firefighting” mode. In other words, they respond reactively to calls instead of having a coordinated approach to reduce crime rates.

On top of everything else, COVID-19 has also presented additional challenges to the ability of the department to engage in proactive law enforcement.

The study noted that overall crime was down between January and September at a rate of around 1%, however violent crimes against persons, including homicide, rape, robbery, and assault, are up 90% in the downtown area year to year over 2019.

An organization called the Ethical Society of Police complained that the study had failed to adequately address systemic racism, a culture of violence within the St. Louis department, and diversity.

In a statement, the organization called out county officials for trying to hold back demographic information relative to employment, discipline, and promotion. The group also says the county attempted to have Teneo sign a non-disclosure agreement:

“One has to question the motives in that. How committed can St. Louis County be to address the issues when an extraordinary effort was made not to provide the information.”

The study made a number of recommendations along the lines of resource allocation, crime control, technology use, and communication. There were three specific areas the study identified where improvements might be made:

  • The department should consider reorganization of personnel, bureaus, and specialized units to maximize efficiencies leveraging existing resources;
  • The department should create and implement a more data-driven, community-focused, long-term crime-fighting strategy;
  • The department should empower the chief to select senior personnel, predicated upon the needs of the department, and to develop a forward-looking strategic plan for the organization.

The full report is available for review here.

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Earlier this month, Law Enforcement Today reported on the exploding crime rate in St. Louis. For more on that, we invite you to:

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St Louis: Homicides nearly double in 10 years, crime explodes – police say criminals breaking into cars to find guns

December 2, 2020

 

Two shootings along the interstate in St Louis on Monday don’t surprise police around the St Louis area, who say that the city is full of illegal guns.

Bill Carson, police chief in Maryland Heights, a northwest suburb of St Louis, said:

“The streets are absolutely flooded with stolen guns.

Many of them are coming from legal gun owners who are carrying them in their cars. It’s so prevalent now that criminals are confident they’ll find a gun when breaking into a car. Criminals are looking specifically for guns. They’re finding guns and a lot of times when we encounter them, they are armed with guns they’ve stolen out of cars.

They might hit an apartment parking lot and hit 15-20 cars and come up with three guns.  They’re hitting the jackpot.”

Public service announcement #1:  While carrying a gun for self-defense is legal, and smart in many cases, don’t leave it in your vehicle.

Police are currently investigating the two interstate shootings. The first shooting occurred in the middle of the afternoon at about 3 p.m. on I-170 near Olive Blvd (MO Hwy 340). Reports indicated that an SUV had bullet holes in the driver’s side – 46-year-old Kristen Whitted was shot and killed.

Four hours later, St. Louis police reported a second interstate shooting at about 7 p.m. near I-55 and Germania Street on the city’s south side. An incident report says “an unknown black sedan pulled next to (the victim) on the exit ramp and fired a shot into his vehicle. The victim is stable. The investigation is ongoing.”

Chief Carson said they’re finding many crimes tied to stolen guns. Last June, Maryland Heights police were undercover in a car break-in sting when a 17-year-old suspect who was checking car door handles shot an officer who confronted him.

Chief Carson added:

“It becomes more dangerous for the police officers because they are finding more and more people breaking into cars that are armed with handguns.

It’s a vicious cycle. He said when violence spikes, law-abiding citizens buy guns, and then criminals steal them from cars.”

Public service announcement #2:  While carrying a gun for self-defense is legal, and smart in many cases, don’t leave it in your vehicle.

Directly related to the rise in crime, people arming themselves, and those guns subsequently being stolen, homicides in the St Louis area are up 100% from ten years ago, and up 25% from last year to this year.

The St Louis police department has reported that there were 144 homicides in 2010.  So far this year, there have been 242.  In an eerie comparison to Chicago and Cook County, the large majority of the homicide victims have been black men between 15 and 30 years old.

Homicides had been on the decline after 2010, but 2015 saw a sharp rise – 24% over 2014.

City, county, state, and federal leaders have come together on the subject to try to curb the climbing homicide rate.  St Louis is down more than 140 officers from its normal manning standard.  50 federal agents have been pledged to assist city, county, and state officers.

Homicides, especially, and crime, in general presents huge economic losses to areas impacted by rising crime – The National Center for Biotechnology Information produced a study in 2010, referencing crime statistics from 2007:

“23 million criminal offenses were committed in 2007, resulting in approximately $15 billion in economic losses to the victims and $179 billion in government expenditures on police protection, judicial and legal activities, and corrections.”

Just like Portland and Seattle, where riots and occupations are a daily occurrence, those cities have seen huge financial losses due to businesses closing and leaving the area.  The financial future certainly looks bleak there.  The same can certainly be said of cities like St Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York where rising crime is deterring normal tourism and business development.

The Catch-22 is that a city’s mayor, city council, and Chamber of Commerce are all aligned to bring business and tourism into their city – and crime prevents tourists and business developers from taking a serious look at their area.

 

 

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