New SLMPD Chief On Developing Relationships, Major Issues
Sam Dotson is the new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
He comes to the position after spending about twenty years with the Department.
Dotson joined host Don Marsh for a wide-ranging discussion. They talked about taking the reins of the St. Louis Police Department as it prepares to transition to local control and about making the force one which is fully up to speed on 21st century policing practices.
“We’re at a 30 year low for crime in the city of St. Louis,” Dotson said. "As I settle into the job, I develop more connections with the officers. I have a responsibility to make sure they come home."
Dotson and Marsh also addressed recent issues in the news including the debate over whether to arm school teachers, ban assault rifles, and make marijuana possession a municipal offense.
Dotson said reinstating a ban on assault rifles needs to be part of the conversation about gun control.
He said in 18 years on the force, he’s never seen a situation where an assault rifle is appropriate. Dotson also said he would like to see a ban on high-capacity magazines.
“There are some pistols that accept high capacity magazines, and when you go to a scene of a shooting, or a homicide, and there are 15 or 20 shell casings laying on the ground – no space for those in an urban environment,” Dotson said.
Dotson also expressed support for closing a loophole that allows firearms to be purchased at gun shows without a background check.
Chief Dotson said he’s not sure if he can support an effort by the St. Louis Board of Alderman to make marijuana possession a municipal crime rather than a state offense. Low-level possession, he said, may be better tried in a city court but he said he’s concerned about an exception for medical marijuana.
“Instead of creating laws to the exception, let’s focus on enforcing the laws that we have, and making sure that we have a process that allows the officers to identify individuals that violate the law, has a system that has consequences, and then maybe we can put some officers back on the street while they’re doing their job,” Dotson said.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann contributed to this report.