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Government, Politics & Issues

Frustrations surface again with city's crime-fighting strategies

Flickr | alancleaver_2000

St. Louis aldermen used a meeting of the city's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday to blast the crime-fighting policies of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson.

"It is important that we make a distinction between criticism of the chief and the leadership and criticism of the officers on the streets," said Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, and the vice chairman of the public safety committee. "Officers on the streets are just as frustrated. They can't say it publicly, but we hear it as aldermen."

The criticisms are nothing new: French and others have long complained that the department fails to put enough resources into the city's more violent areas. But the anger is especially potent now following the decision to put more officers into downtown following the brutal carjacking and murder last week of Brandi Hill at 11th Street and Washington Avenue. That was the case in which the carjackers later discarded Hill's 9-month-old daughter miles away. The infant was unharmed.

"I'm not a criminologist, but it's common sense, " said Alderman Chris Carter, D-27th Ward. "If you have the majority of your crime happening in one part of the city, you put the extra resources there. It's a large slap in my face, and my residents' face, when we have 20-plus officers walking on one street, and I can barely see two as I sit on my front porch or ride through my neighborhood."

"I just had a shooting on my street a week and a half ago where a man was shot at 30 times in his vehicle. I haven't seen any extra patrols," said Alderman Dionne Flowers, D-2nd Ward. "And I understand that there are locations where we have tourists that come and visit our city, and they're important. But the people that live in these neighborhoods, that pay taxes, that want to see their officers, they want protection, and they're just not getting it."

Mayor Francis Slay said he continues to have faith in Dotson's strategies, but French repeated a call for the chief to resign.

"He's not been a good partner," French said. "I feel like this chief's attitude is, 'I got it, the police department is none of your business.' And then when his bad decisions end up with bad results for the city, everybody is at fault but him. It’s the judges' fault. It’s the prosecutor’s fault. Three months ago, or six months ago, it was the aldermen’s fault."

On Monday, Dotson published two blog posts once again attacking judges for setting low bonds for gun crimes. Court officials say that setting the same high bond for every defendant would violate Missouri's Constitution.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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