In our October 4, 2017 edition, for our editorial we published a “speech for Mayor Krewson to give on police management.” This was during ongoing citizen protests of the bench verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley and shortly after the brutal mass arrests of protestors in downtown St. Louis on September 17, 2017, when police chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and then-interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole boasted that his officers “owned the night” with Krewson smiling beside him. Because the mayor did not take our advice then and she needs to now more than ever, we have updated the speech for her in the light of multiple felony indictments filed by the Department of Justice against four of her officers who think they own the streets and the night.
I have reviewed the evidence in the felony indictments of four St. Louis police officers for their conduct during a Stockley verdict protest last September, as well as many law suits filed against the City of St. Louis for police behavior, both during those protests of police unaccountability and protests of a police-civilian killing before I was elected mayor. I have reviewed a substantial amount of documentary evidence, including the outrageous words of the indicted officers themselves shared via text messages. And I have decided that constitutional protections and good governance mindful of long-term public safety compel me to contact counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, ArchCity Defenders and personal litigants and call for a settlement conference.
Further, in light of doubts raised about my own accountability, given my protracted silence and focus on things like soccer when these matters of constitutional protections and government accountability were urgently before the public, I hereby invite the public to join us in that settlement conference. And I want to publicly establish the City of St. Louis’ position under my administration on the role of the police in our government.
The role of the police is to patrol the city and investigate apparent or reported incidents of criminal activity. It is dangerous to interfere with some criminal activity, and we expect our police officers to defend the public and themselves from imminent threat. It is understandable, though regrettable and at times tragic, that sometimes a police officer’s duty-bound elimination of a legitimate public threat ends in injury or loss of life for the suspect.
However, let me be clear. And I have lined up with me today many other people from the City of St. Louis. See them standing all around? I invited every citywide elected official, as well as the senior leadership of the police department and my senior staff. They are standing with me today to make this public declaration that our institutions belong to us, no one can take them away from us, and we can and do demand that they change.
To be very clear: The police do not have any punitive role in our government. Other than defending against an imminent legitimate threat, police are duty-bound to use minimum necessary force and maximum personal respect when getting the attention of a civilian, interviewing a suspect, or taking a suspect into custody. The police are not authorized to hurt or punish anyone except in legitimate defense of the public or themselves.
So, if you are a police officer because you think that means you get to hurt people, you need to get out now.
If you think aggravation at a protestor – perhaps even someone who has been exercising his freedom of speech to say quite hateful things to your face – means you get to spray that person in the face with chemical munitions, you need to get out now.
If you think aggravation at a protestor or any suspect means you get to Tase them to make them hurt, you need to get out now.
If you think that when a suspect makes you chase him that means you get to exact a “foot tax” – a beatdown – when you catch him, you need to get out now.
If you think being a police officer means you get to kill people with impunity, even when they pose no imminent threat to you or the public, you need to get out now.
And, now, I want you all to get out your cellphones and make a video of this next statement so you can be very sure where I stand on this: Our government offers police protection equally to all people. If you think people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, opinion, or creed deserve more or less respect and protection from the police than any other people, you need to get out now.
I am speaking to everyone in my administration and this police department – very much including Assistant Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole – when I say: If you think the police have any punitive role in our government or that any people deserve any more or less respect or protection from the police than any other people, you need to get out now.
Inspired by remarks made by U.S. Air Force Lt. General Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, on September 28, in response to racial slurs written outside the dorm rooms of five black cadets.