I’m a detective sergeant. I supervise a group of six detectives in the City of St. Louis. I’ve been a police officer for 33 years and I’ve dealt with all kinds of people. I believe if you treat people with respect, you get respect back. Getting face-to-face and eye-to-eye contact, and having discussions with people who might have a different view than you do, is vitally important. It allows both people to see the other’s point of view. And if both people are open-minded, it brings an understanding to both sides. Once people talk, they realize everybody wants to achieve the same goal. The means to get to that end might be a little different, but in the end, everybody wants to get to the same place.
I believe if you treat people with respect, you get respect back. Getting face-to-face and eye-to-eye contact, and having discussions with people who might have a different view than you do, is vitally important.
Money, pay, and benefits are certainly huge in attracting qualified, smart, and driven people. Especially in the St. Louis area, the pay is wholly inadequate. The really bright driven people that would make great police officers are snapped up by the private sector because, quite frankly, they can just make more money. On a national level, reinstituting money for the COPS program would be huge. Part of the problem that we’ve had is back when we had the economic downturn, cities were in financial trouble, and one of the first things they did was to take money out of the police department budget. The first things that went were community policing programs, police departments were downsized, and now many police agencies don’t have the manpower to do anything but respond to calls to service. That whole community policing aspect has unfortunately gone by the wayside. Money seems simplistic, but I think we have to start there.
Officers have to treat each contact with the public like the old saying:“You never get another chance to make a first impression.” You’ve got to treat people with respect.
Obviously, there’s a breach in trust between the community and police. Part of the problem is not knowing each other. Often the only time when people call the police is when they’re responding to a call for service. Let’s face it, the only time people call the police is typically when something bad happens, or when they get pulled over by the police because they committed a traffic violation. So, number one, officers have to treat each contact with the public like the old saying:‘You never get another chance to make a first impression.’ You’ve got to treat people with respect. And there are times when police work is not always pretty. When dangerous criminals are being dealt with, unfortunately, at times, police need to use force and, hopefully, police use only the least amount of force necessary. In this age with cameras, there’s kind of a TV mentality of how police do their work. I keep coming back to relationship building. We have got to get back in, talk to our neighborhood, get to know each other, and fight the crime problem together.