Suicide…the drunken uncle nobody wants to acknowledge…

I know it’s been a long time and I’m sorry that this post isn’t really about a drunken uncle, but it does include talk of suicide, so tread lightly if that is a trigger.

Below is an email I sent in support of my friend Anna, a high school senior trying to get her high school to put a chair of remembrance out at their upcoming graduation in honor of a friend who lost her life to suicide last year. Anna and several other students at the school have tried to get the administration to reconsider their “no” answer, but they will not.

The administration has allowed other memorials to be utilized at various school events, and it has become apparent that the degree of sympathy allowed to be expressed openly for a lost friend depends in large part to some on the way in which a person dies.

This is sad, particularly when we’re talking about a young girl who, through no fault of her own, simply couldn’t overcome the thoughts in her head. Succumbing to the dread isn’t weakness, it’s the end result of an illness. It’s a final act, the final act, of mental freedom for a still developing brain that simply couldn’t cope without the help that it didn’t know where to find.

The administration will no doubt say that the memorial could make some students upset or trigger them. Most of the kids graduating that night will be old enough to vote and to be called to fight in the United States Armed Forces. If the sight of an empty chair or mention of the name of a dead person causes them despair, then I weep for the future of humanity and would suggest that their school has failed them.

No matter what happens, I am proud of Anna for fighting for her friend’s legacy and trying to get people to acknowledge that her lost friend is more than just a suicide statistic to a lot of people who liked and who loved her.

If you’re so inclined to support Anna and the other students in support of their lost friend Julia, you could sign the petition linked below, or I’m sure the district superintendent, Dr. Mark Miles, would love to hear from you.

I think I was civil in my email and hope any of you who decide to write him will be as well. He did not give me the courtesy of a response, so it’s my assumption that the school is sticking to their guns.


Dr. Miles,

I am writing to you at the bequest of some dear friends of our family, the Zamenski’s, but mostly on behalf of a senior student at Rockwood Summit who is like a second daughter to me, Anna Zamenski.

By now I’m quite sure you are familiar with what is going on so I won’t rehash the details and it’s not my intention to add any fuel to what has probably become a bit of a nasty fire for you and your administrators.

I have been a police officer in the City of St. Louis for over twenty-two years. I mention this ONLY to give you context of my understanding about what you and your staff and teachers must deal with in your profession. Like police officers and sadly nowadays, even doctors and scientists and other professionals society relies so heavily on, teachers are under a lot more scrutiny than ever before. I understand what it’s like to feel attacked when you are simply trying to make the best decisions possible for everybody, sometimes under the most difficult of circumstances.

Having said that, going to the principal’s office is unnerving for students who care about their education and behavior, even if the principal is a kind person. It is my understanding that Anna was called to the office today by the high school principal and at least one other staff member and was accused of initiating an online petition that she had no control over. Berating or upsetting a student to tears is shameful, especially in this situation where we’re dealing with a kid who is trying to be supportive of her dead friend the best way she knows how.

I don’t know what the rules are with respect to honoring students who have passed away during their time as students in Rockwood, but I would ask you to consider this. I have been told and have no reason to disbelieve this, that some students who have died unexpectedly have been honored individually in some small way at graduations. 

If this is indeed the case, then whether or not a young person’s individual eligibility to be remembered one last time in front of her classmates and friends should not be incumbent upon dying in a manner that the administration deems “tragic.” 

A teen dying in a car accident is tragic.

A teen dying in a hunting accident is tragic.

A teen dying from overheating/exhaustion during football practice is tragic.

And yes, a teen dying via suicide is tragic.

Rockwood has a reputation as one of the best school districts in the region and this is an excellent opportunity to show off why this is so. 

Suicide happens.

It happens not only with our kids, but also with the elderly and people of all ages in between, oftentimes for reasons that those of us who are left behind to mourn simply can’t understand. We as adults struggle to understand, so what must our kids think when this happens to one of their own?

Nobody is asking for Rockwood to glorify suicide or even mention the manner of Julia’s death, but refusing to acknowledge her existence at Rockwood as an individual sends the wrong message, particularly now that all of the Summit seniors are aware that there was a request made to honor her. The message doing nothing will send is that we heard you the students, but we didn’t listen to you.

Even in my police profession, we have been guilty of shunning police officers who have ended their own lives by not honoring them when we honor other officers who were killed at the hands of others or who otherwise died accidently while on duty. We are getting better at understanding that the stresses of the job add up and sometimes just become too much for people to handle on their own. We’re learning to acknowledge that suicide isn’t committed by the weak or by quitters and trying to teach our young officers that looking for help with mental issues is just as okay as looking for help with physical ailments.

As you know better than most, high school kids are under a great deal of pressure nowadays. In addition to doing well in school, many of these kids have jobs or play sports or are in clubs and have to please parents at home as well as finding a way to be true to themselves both in and out of school. Their lives are constantly under review from adults and peers, especially with social media and sometimes, just like with adults, it gets to be too much.

As adults, many of us are aware of the warning signs and know where to look for help, but many young people don’t have that information yet. 

Rockwood is being watched now. Why that is or who has drawn this unwanted attention to the district doesn’t matter. Rightly or wrongly, the school district will be judged by some on how they handle this situation. My hope is that Rockwood uses this as an opportunity to empathize and to educate, as that is what Rockwood does so well. 

At the end of the day, you are teachers. 

Please teach these kids that you understand that they have a lot going on and that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Teach them that you are there for them. Teach them that their parents or police officers, or doctors or somebody at the other end of an 800 number is there for them when life doesn’t seem worth living, but please don’t teach them that the life of a young girl who lost her fight with her demons matters any less than the life of a student who died any other way.

Julia existed and she was a Rockwood Summit student. But for circumstances that were beyond her young brain’s ability to control, she would be graduating with her friends. All Anna is asking is that you acknowledge that “JULIA” is missed, not that one of a general group of many is missed. That’s not too much to ask.

I am, quite frankly, very proud of Anna for trying to keep her friend’s memory alive and fighting like hell for it to happen. Julia’s death has been especially hard on Anna. The easiest thing for Anna to do would be to try to forget about her friend and move on, but in spite of the fact that Julia’s passing causes her heart to hurt and her eyes to cry whenever she thinks about it, Anna fights through the pain for her friend.

There is no reward or “victory” for Anna to see her friend mentioned individually at graduation other than to know that she did what she thought was right and that adults she trusts agreed with her. That sort of passion and perseverance and friendship is something that Rockwood should encourage in its students, not fight.

I appreciate you and the hard work you do. I hope you will reconsider your position.


Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Big brother and lethal nonlethal weapons…

I wish I could get into the head of the officer who shot Rayshard Brooks because I have a theory about why it turned into a clusterfuck.

I need to admit up front that I haven’t watched all the videos in their entirety, but I’ve seen enough of the initial encounter and the ending to, along with my twenty plus years of doing this job, formulate this opinion.

The first officer on scene initially told Mr. Brooks that he was blocking traffic, and that he had to move his car. I’m sure it’s obvious already to this officer that Brooks is drunk or high or impaired somehow.

The officer goes back to his car and Brooks goes back to sleep.

The officer goes back to the suspect’s car and tells him to pull into a parking space, which Brooks eventually, though not without some difficulty, does.

At this point, the officer is in his patrol car and while seeing things through his body cam I’m imagining this is what’s going on in his head:

Man, I want to leave. I could be done with this call and move on to the next one, but look at all these people in the drive thru. They all know as well as I do that he’s probably drunk.

If I let him go and he wakes up and drives off and kills somebody, I won’t be able to live with myself. They’ll probably fire me or try to find a way to charge me with a crime. The family of the people killed would sue me for sure.

I could give him a ride home, right?

Sure, I would tell him that he’s not going to jail but tell him that he has to ride in the car with handcuffs on because it’s an officer safety issue AND the people who called 911 would think I was arresting a drunk driver and we can all move on.

Well crap. My dash camera and my body camera have both been recording this whole time. If my bosses see me not arresting a drunk driver and just taking him home, they’ll ding me for sure.

Fuck it. It’s just easier to just do the proper thing and arrest him. I’m sure he’ll get off easy anyway. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do…

We all know how this ended, which is not well for anyone.

Just like that, we have another man killed by a police officer in a situation that was wholly avoidable.

In a perfect world, a person, especially a drunk one, should never be able to disarm an officer. We are trained to keep that from happening, but things do happen.

Once Brooks has the officer’s Taser though, should he have still lost his life?


Let me say this up front though. This was a legally justified shooting, and the officer shouldn’t be charged with a crime, and probably shouldn’t have even lost his job.

Now let me digress.

A Taser is by definition an intermediary use of force device in police parlance.

On the use of force continuum in most departments, its use is considered a non-lethal use of force alternative when utilized by a trained officer.

You may have heard the term use of force continuum recently as it is part of what is being called the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms being peddled by the Obama Foundation that many city mayors and departments are adopting at the behest of people demanding police reform.

Most of the eight suggested reforms are honestly already a part of most police agency policies and/or training.

Briefly, the reforms are as follows:

  1. De-escalation training
  2. Required use of a force continuum
  3. Restricting or eliminating chokeholds
  4. Requiring verbal warnings before using deadly force
  5. Prohibit shooting at people in moving cars
  6. Exhausting all reasonable alternatives before using deadly force
  7. Intervening when an officer sees another officer using excessive force
  8. Comprehensive reporting of use of force incidents

The idea of a use of force continuum is that the officer using force should use the least amount of force necessary to safely accomplish his or her objective, whatever that may be.

In other words, if an officer is trying to arrest a person and that person is yelling profanities at the officer, hitting the arrestee in the head with a night stick right away is unwarranted.

Verbal abuse with nothing more should be met with verbal commands, which are near the low end of the continuum, and should those fail, then the officer would move up to the next level of force on the continuum.

That doesn’t mean that the officer has to go through each level on the continuum to get to the next higher level, of course.

If an officer encounters a man shooting a gun at him, then he doesn’t have to standby and try to use his words or open hand techniques to save his own life. The officer could go straight to deadly force, so long as he is able to explain his actions.

This officer used a gun when Brooks had a Taser, which you just said was an intermediary device. Why shouldn’t he be fired or charged?

I said that a Taser was a non-lethal alternative for officers trained in its use.

Police officers are wise to not use a Taser on a person with a gun. The only time that’s even an option is when two or more officers are on scene and one of them has his or her firearm ready, in case the Taser doesn’t work on the armed suspect.

If Brooks is able to shoot the Taser at one of these officers, one of the prongs could very easily go through an eye causing serious physical injury or, should the Taser work as intended, this man so hell bent on escaping a simple DUI charge could conceivably take one of the officers’ guns and use it to kill one or both of them. In that sense, the Taser is very much a deadly weapon.

To suggest that this outcome is implausible is unfair to the officers. We’ve all seen enough unbelievable video to know that anything can happen in this world.

The officer who shot Brooks was chasing him with his Taser in his hand, presumably because he hoped to use it instead of his gun to subdue this man and make the lawful arrest.

ONLY when Brooks fired the Taser at the officer did he shoot at him with his pistol, and I suggest he was legally entitled to do so. He dropped his Taser and shot Brooks with his gun to potentially save his life.

What’s legally justified in police work isn’t always what brings about the best or even a remotely desirable outcome, and of course this officer now has to live with his decision. Maybe he’s at peace with it, or more likely, since he appeared to want to let the guy go initially and was chasing him with a Taser before shooting his gun, he’s struggling terribly with what happened.

When I think about these incidents that keep occurring, my struggle is with how we get officers and more importantly, those who are supposed to lead officers, to understand that it’s okay to retreat sometimes and get the bad guy later.

I wonder if this officer had let Brooks run off with the Taser and he ended up escaping how his command staff would take that, even had the officer said he did so instead of shooting him.

Here is part of my department’s police manual, and in fact, it’s literally the first thing in the manual after the index.

The primary responsibility of this Department and each of its members is to protect the lives of the citizens we are sworn to serve. It is also the duty of each member of the Department to honor the established principles of democracy upon which this country was founded. Among these is the most profound reverence for human life, the value of which far exceeds that of any property. In view of this, it is essential that every action of this Department and of each of its members be consistent with that responsibility.

If one of my officers says he let a man he only knew to be wanted for a DUI run off with a TASER because his only other option was to shoot him, I’d fight for that officer to not lose his job, assuming he or she is an otherwise fine officer.

He or she would be punished, of course and subject to more training I’d hope, but I would appreciate the levelheadness of that decision.

I don’t feel as though our training always comports with this ideal, and I have a hunch that this officer’s didn’t either.

He did what he thought he had to do to save his life and probably, with respect to trying to make the arrest in the first place and not losing the Taser, his job.

Those are tough decisions to make in the heat of the moment, but we’re expected to make them all the time.

Ideally, common sense decisions that save lives are supported, but that isn’t always reality.

Posted in Police, The not meant to be funny stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

A duty to act…or not?

When I used to teach law at the police academy, one of the subjects that always stirred some lively debate was that of criminal liability and, in particular, how that relates to any duty we as citizens and the class as future police officers, owe to others.

As a general rule, we don’t owe other people any duty to act on their behalf, even in an emergency, and this includes police officers.

In other words, doing nothing isn’t against the law unless there’s a statute or relationship in law that requires one to act on behalf of another.

An example of a statute making the failure to do something illegal would be something like one that makes failing to pay (failing to act) your taxes or licensing your car illegal.

A relationship in law that would punish a failure to act would include a parent/child relationship. Failing to feed or shelter your child (failing to act) can land you in jail, because there is a duty in law on a parent to provide such care to their own child. If I notice that my neighbor’s kids are dying because they’re not being fed, I have absolutely no responsibility to do anything on their behalf. I’m a terrible human being if I don’t help, but not a law breaker.

I would sometimes raise a hypothetical that included an officer in uniform walking into a convenience store to get a drink and noticing a man slapping a woman around as she pleads for help. The officer walks past the couple, even saying excuse me to the man to grab a cup while he’s continuing his assault on the woman, gets himself a fountain drink and leaves without doing anything to intervene on behalf of this poor woman.

If that woman were to sue the officer, she would simply have no case.

The officer, like any other person in that scenario, doesn’t owe that woman a lick of aid.

The law is often not fair like that, and there are certainly exceptions to this general rule. This is absolutely a dereliction of duty that should get the officer punished and hopefully, fired in many departments, but to say the officer is criminally or civilly liable would be a mistruth.

Let’s say that the officer did his job in the hypothetical and arrested the man. Had he put the man in handcuffs and then let the woman take a few punches at the suspect before he put him in the police car, NOW he has made himself liable for not protecting a person (failing to act).

It is VERY WELL SETTLED LAW that a person in police custody is owed a duty of care by the officer controlling the arrestee.


This is an exception to the general rule that we don’t owe others a duty of care that I tried to drill into the heads of recruits in training.

Once that person is in your handcuffs, he or she becomes your “child.”

If you fail to protect him or her from other people, you can be sued or criminally charged.

Certainly, if you intentionally hurt an arrested person in your control, you can be sued or criminally charged.

This is not up for debate.

This is not how we are to treat people who are under arrest and already in handcuffs for an extended amount of time:



I’m sorry, but it’s not.

An unarmed man in handcuffs should not be a threat to three or four police officers, especially when at least one of them has almost twenty years of police experience.

When bystanders are pointing camera phones at you and muttering about a man not breathing or not moving or being killed, it should trigger something in a police officer’s brain that he needs to reassess what he’s doing and to at least make sure that he’s literally not killing the person he’s made himself lawfully responsible for.

Putting pressure on a person’s back while making an arrest is certainly nothing novel or heinous, but it should be done to gain control and then the officer should move on. It should be a transitory tactic to gain control, normally by handcuffing the person behind their back. Once a person is in control, all weight needs to be removed from the prone arrestee while he or she is on their stomach. Never should the weight be on a person’s neck though. There are too many things that can go wrong with neck restraints, such as broken bones or a lack of blood or air flow. The neck restraint I was very openly taught in the police academy as a legitimate tool to use has long since been disallowed by my own department, and I would imagine by department’s nationwide because of the risks inherent with subduing a person using their neck.

In fact, any striking of a person in the neck is considered deadly force in many departments.

If rolling an arrested person , even somebody not in distress, over onto his or her side doesn’t come as second nature to a police officer nowadays, then they haven’t been trained well enough and that’s partly on the department’s shoulders.

While I am almost always willing to wait for all the facts to come out before I rush to judgement, I just don’t see any benefit to waiting any longer in this case.

No facts will help alleviate this callous display of indifference to another person’s suffering.

It’s not a good look for this officer and what isn’t a good look for one officer reflects poorly upon every single other officer in the country.

These officers have made my job, hundreds of miles away, and the jobs of thousands of decent officers across the land, harder today than it was a couple of days ago, and for that I am angry.

Even if an autopsy says this man had drugs in his system (I don’t know this to be the case or not) or he had a preexisting heart condition or whatever, none of that excuses the length of time this man was on his stomach in cuffs with 200 pounds of cop on top of him.

None of it.

If he was suspected to be on drugs, then that’s all the more reason to treat him with kid gloves.

I often think about how we police and what the goal is at the end of the day.

There were criminals running around committing crimes long before I became a cop. Twenty years later, there are still criminals running around committing crimes, and long after I retire and die, I would venture to guess that there will still be criminals running around committing crimes.

Crime is an unfortunate reality in our world, and there are some truly awful people living among us.

While it is incumbent upon us as cops to arrest these folks when we can, it is not one of our many tasks to punish them for their alleged misdeeds.

A key to policing for me has been to learn to not take this job personally.

It’s a liberating feeling when you can see or hear terrible things written or said about your profession (much of it legitimately deserved) and understand that it’s not Don they’re berating, but the uniform.

I’m okay with that.

Hell, when I see a cop taking radar during rush hour I shake my head in disgust myself.

Government employees should be held to task from time to time.

Are we policing in 2020 in a way that most citizens want us to?

Is our training or lack of training somehow causing too many of us to have implicit or not so implicit biases against minorities?

I don’t know.

I think about deadly force incidents a lot when they happen and run through scenarios on how I would handle similar situations and imagine ways that the officer, even when the use of force is legally justified, could have avoided killing a suspect.

Sometimes, that’s not possible for sure, but I feel like most times, it is, which is easy to say when Monday morning quarterbacking an incident I know.

I think many deadly force encounters can be avoided if we’re willing to sacrifice an immediate arrest to keep from having to kill somebody.

Honestly, that should be our priority always.

Not many immediate arrests are worth anybody’s life.

Michael Brown in Ferguson is a classic example of this outcome.

There was no reason for that man to be able to reach into a police car for the officer’s gun.

I’ll go to my grave of the opinion that his death was legally justified, but at the end of the day, better tactics would have pretty easily prevented his death.

Better tactics comes from better training and having better qualified people apply to be police officers.

None of that is happening anytime soon.

Funding and manpower are two excuses for depleted training sessions and a lack of quality applicants in most departments, but at the end of the day, all an officer has in a fight is his training.

Good training causes officers to act using muscle memory.

Muscle memory is why we scan for threats before we holster our gun without thinking. It’s how we know to look before we fire at a suspect to see whether or not innocent people are too close to do so safely, and it’s how we should just know to roll a handcuffed man from his stomach to his side, especially if he says he’s in pain or he can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe should be a trigger.

When an officer hears certain things, or notices a certain tone in the voice of another officer on the radio, he or she can sense when there is a problem and our bodies react appropriately.

“I can’t breathe” should make our bodies do the same thing when we’re arresting a person.

After Eric Gardner and now George Floyd, I can’t breathe needs to be trigger.

That trigger should cause us to instinctively reassess, when it’s safe to do so, what our arrestee is experiencing and react accordingly so that we’re keeping the person in our charge as safe as we can from preventable injury or God forbid, an in custody death.


Posted in Police, Police Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments


I was directing traffic before a Cardinal’s baseball game when I got the news.

“Did you hear about the nonsense?” An officer stopped at my intersection in a golf cart asked me.


I hadn’t heard about anything to do with the police department up to that point in my day, and I wondered what it could be.

With law enforcement, it could be literally anything.


It was the worst thing.

“Langsdorf was shot and killed,” the officer said.

Langsdorf is Mike Langsdorf.

It was Mike Langsdorf.

Mike was a friend from our time in the old Third District. We worked together in South St. Louis many years ago.

He was a friend to me and he was a friend of many other first responders as well.

Mike Langsdorf loved being a police officer, and I mean he loved it more than most of us do.

It was just in his blood to wear the badge.

It was in his blood to help people.

Mike spent the bulk of his career arresting the most violent of offenders, oftentimes in the most violent and underserved of our city’s neighborhoods.

He was very good at his job, beyond just the arrests as well. He was there for any police officer or citizen who needed him, young or old, black or white.

He was a mentor to many young officers and hero to countless citizens he helped over the years.

He was a hero to this little guy who needed him the night his family home caught fire and his own daddy had to throw him from a roof to save his life.


Mike was good with this kid when he needed him to be because he knew what to do.

He knew what to do for him because Mike was also a dad.

Perhaps most tragically, Mike leaves behind kids who will never again feel the comforting embrace of his hugs or see his face at all their future special occasions. They will always wonder what dad would have thought about this or that and never know from him just what it was dad was thinking.

They won’t get to hear anymore of his dumb dad jokes.

They won’t see him at their graduations.

They won’t see him at their weddings.

They won’t have him around when they go to the beach or the zoo or to the lake or even just out to dinner ever again.

That was all stolen from them.

It was all stolen from them in one minute and sixteen seconds.

That’s how long he struggled with a man who ultimately shot him to death to escape being arrested for trying to pass a bad check at some shithole convenience store that serves people who mostly could give two fucks about the police, but sure will call us first when they need any sort of help.

Mike was always willing to be the guy who answered those calls.

After the officer in the golf cart told me that Mike had been killed, we were joined at the time by a female officer who also worked with Mike in the old Third District. She caught wind of what we were talking about and immediately had tears in her eyes, because she already knew what happened.

It’s one of the queer things about policing, but even with tragedy less than an hour old, life goes on.

Calls for police still needed to be answered.

Crimes still needed to be solved.

While thousands of people waited happily for a baseball game to start, a handful of police officers had to continue directing traffic and tending to the security of a large event like a MLB game with news of Mike’s death fresh on our minds.

We struggled to focus on the tasks at hand while trying to get the facts on what happened to our friend.

Why was our friend dead?

What were his last moments on this earth like?

Fortunately, but more honestly, unfortunately, we know what his last moments were like.

We all know.

Perfect strangers know.

His coworkers know.

His friends know.

His family knows.

His kids will also know.


Everybody knows because as he laid on the cold, hard floor of that store, where employees had just called for him to come and help, which he did, they took a video of it.

A police officer in uniform is shot.

He is dying.

His blood is pooling under him and he is clearly dying.

A man, a human being, is dying in front of you and the one thing you think to do is to get out your phone and live stream his death to thousands of morbid onlookers.

This is our culture today.

There is a lot of anger at the woman who videoed our friend dying, and rightfully so. Some of the comments on her feed were disgusting and typical of what you’d expect from the sort of people who probably frequent that store and are friends with this lady on Facebook.

There is a lot of anger at local media as well, because many of them posted links to this disgusting video on their own websites or social media pages.

They deserve any backlash they get for using the death of a police officer to boost page views and clicks.

I don’t know when society began to lose all its couth, but it can become frustrating, if you let it.

I’m choosing to take the high road for now and try to see the good in what I saw in a video I wished I’d never seen.

The woman did have some genuine concern in her voice, I think. Others held Mike’s hand and I think they may have prayed for him as he lay there as well.

Unlike the man who lay dying before them, I just don’t think the people in the video knew what to do in an emergency, so what may look to many of us like indifference, could very well just be panic or shock or whatever.

For now, that’s what I’m choosing to believe.

It’s not easy to see any good in this situation for sure, but if anybody would have wanted us to at least try to do so, it would have been Mike.

Rest in peace, brother.



Posted in Police, The not meant to be funny stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

“Those people…”

There’s an article in today’s local paper that  summarizes the fact that here in St. Louis, four children have been killed in the past four days as the result of gun violence.

Read it again.

Four children.

Four days.

All dead.

I read the article, of course, because it disturbs me when anybody is killed, but especially the most vulnerable among us, like kids.

The four dead aren’t even the only kids who suffered from gun injuries during this time, sadly.

One of the kids was only three. Her and some of the neighborhood kids had gathered to eat some pizza when a white car drove by and somebody fired shots into the group. She was with a six year old girl who was also shot, but didn’t die.

She’s critically injured.

She’s six.

A thirteen year old boy was shot in his hand here on the South Side as well, but that’s not newsworthy at this point. I only know about it because I’m familiar with the case through work. I guess we can take solace in the fact that his shooting isn’t random. The boy is allegedly in a gang, and was probably shot by rival gang members.

Still, he’s thirteen and in a gang.


My fifteen year old asked me yesterday if I would take her to a local state park to ride bikes on some trails with her thirteen year old neighbor friend.

We did that, along with her eight year old brother and then had sno-cones afterwards.

It was a great night.

That’s what kids should be doing, riding bikes and eating sno-cones.

Why aren’t so many kids in St. Louis City riding bikes for fun and having sno-cones with their parents?

Why are so many running around armed with guns?

Why are so many kids being gunned down, especially kids minding their own business like this three year old girl?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can wonder why we as a society don’t seem to care.

As I read the article on the four dead kids over the past four days, I was drawn to the side of the screen, which was showing the most popular articles on the news site.

Here they are, to the right:


A college cheerleading coach was fired and a lot of St. Louis Blues information.

A cheerleading coach being fired is news??

I get that we’re all pretty excited locally to have the Blues in a game seven for the Stanley Cup Finals, but damn, we’re talking about kids.

Babies even.

Look at the face of this baby girl, and explain to me how we can’t do better?


The wording above the pictures is from a friend of mine, a police officer.

A police officer who had to see this little girl’s dead body along with a six year old with critical gunshot injuries and a group of distraught family members.

The images hit him and other cops on that scene hard, because why wouldn’t it?

It should, and it does.

Dead kids matter like hell to police officers, and I have no doubt that our already busy Homicide Unit will do all they can to solve these crimes, but why isn’t there more outrage outside of law enforcement?

Have we become so morbidly jaded that this is an acceptable status quo?

Is it because the four dead kids are named Myiesha, Charnija, Kennedi and Jashon?

Yes, all four dead kids are black.

They all live in the city.

Does that matter?

This violence seems to have become a “those people” problem.

The people who can do anything about this madness, like elected officials, judges, etc. don’t have enough of a dog in this fight.

They can watch the news from their nice homes and shake their heads that another one of “those people” is dead from a violent encounter.

Four gunned down white kids on four consecutive nights in the county or even here in the city would be big news. I don’t have any doubts about that at all.

Why is this any different?

Urban gun violence has become ubiquitous. It’s odd, and even surprising, when the city goes any period of days without a gunshot victim.

What do we do to stop this nonsense?

The police will be expected to do something about this, ultimately, but while we’re currently undermanned and outgunned, the powers that be are removing officers from the streets for social media posts, or hiding them in administrative positions while the Circuit Attorney’s Office drags its feet on deciding whether to charge some officers with trumped up crimes or puts them on “lists” that make them virtually useless in prosecuting violent offenders.

There are very few violent offenders in the city who haven’t been arrested before.

There is little more frustrating to police officers than seeing these people not prosecuted or released for reasons that boggle the mind.

Nobody holds the prosecutors or judges or even defense attorneys responsible for the continuing cycle of violence.

Nope, it’s the police who take the brunt of the blame, when there’s blame to be had.

They want violence quelled, but don’t want us to hurt anybody while doing it.

They don’t understand that there are terrible people in this world doing terrible things who don’t want to go to jail voluntarily.

Maybe if more of the folks who aren’t “those people” had to show up on gruesome, terrible scenes, or deal everyday with violent offenders smug in the knowledge that there’s a good chance they’ll be out soon enough to offend again, things would matter.

When things matter, things get done, but right now, it just doesn’t seem like what should matter most to all of us matters at all to enough of us.

Except maybe to “those people,” but “those people” don’t have the means or power to make the necessary changes. Too many of “those people” are busy grieving or trying to figure out how to make it through another day or feed their kids or find a way to move to a safer community.

There’s little time to commit to causes when life is such a struggle.

People who are trying to survive don’t really have time to live, not live like life is meant to be lived anyway.

It’s up to the rest of us to figure out how to help in a way that’s agreeable to the masses.

Does anybody care though?

Maybe after game seven, but until then, I’ll be sure to hold my breath that another of “those people” don’t lose a baby to senselesss violence.




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On charging do nothing cops…

When I was teaching law in the police academy, I used to throw out this hypothetical.

Let’s say that I was in my police uniform, on duty, and I was walking into a convenience store to get myself a drink when I see a man beating the crap out of a woman near the soda fountain machines.

He’s punching her with all his might, and as I approach, he stops and I say, “excuse me, I need to get to the cups over there,” and then I proceed to fill my cup with soda and walk out the door, ignoring the crying woman’s pleas for help.

Am I liable to this woman for not helping her?

The answer, as with most things law related in policing, is somewhere between yes and no, but closer to no.

Am I a terrible human being for not helping?


Am I a terrible cop for not helping?


Should I be terminated from my job as a cop?

Unequivocally, yes.

Should I be charged criminally, if the beating continues and she ends up dead?


It is fairly settled law in most places that nobody owes another person a single iota of assistance unless there are extenuating circumstances. We very seldom charge people criminally for failing to do something, and when we do, there must be a basis in law to do so.

That basis may exist in the form of a criminal statute, such as a law that requires us to pay taxes.

That basis may exist in the form of a relationship that gives rise to what the law calls a duty of care. As an example, if one of my neighbor’s children comes to my house everyday asking for food, and I never give him a morsel, and instead I shoe him away, even noticing that he’s getting thinner and thinner each time, it’s not my fault or problem, legally, if that kid starves to death. That same child’s mother or father or other guardian, on the other hand, does have a legal duty to care for and nourish that child, and so the law has no issue with charging them with neglect or abuse or whatever the law allows.

Other extensions of that duty arising are a bit murkier, but don’t necessarily require a familial relationship.

A few months ago, a woman who had been stabbed by an acquaintance on a nearby highway made her way to the front porch of a nearby house and banged on the door, waking a couple who lived at the house. The couple saw her on their porch, and did nothing to help her out, outside of calling 911. One of the couple was a nurse. The woman eventually died from her injuries.

Even assuming that offering this woman aid would have saved her life, there is no chance that criminal charges would be brought against this couple, even if they didn’t call 911.

But, let’s assume the same facts, but instead, the couple drags the woman, still alive, off of the porch and into the backyard, so she wouldn’t get blood all over their front porch. If it could be reasonably assumed that moving her body made it unlikely that she would be found by another person, and that the woman wouldn’t be able to have moved herself to find help, then the couple could now find themselves facing criminal charges.

Even police officers don’t have a special relationship with the public that gives rise to any duty of care, for the most part, so police officers don’t have any liability when somebody is injured or killed and they could have done something about it.

This duty of care would arise though, if an officer arrests somebody and puts them in handcuffs, because now that person is at the mercy of the officer and is vulnerable because of the officer’s actions (the arrest). There are other situations where a duty arises between police and the public as well, such as when a dispatcher says police are coming and people rely on that message. If the police don’t show up and something happens, then there could potentially be liability.

Civil liability.

Criminal liability for police inaction is a stretch, even for a terrible situation like the Parkland School shooting.

News this week that the police deputy, Scot Peterson, who didn’t run into the building while students were being murdered by a former student, is being charged with crimes that could cost him nearly a hundred years in prison, got to me.

It’s one thing to hold officers accountable for their intentional actions, when those actions cross a clear line and lead to injury or death, but to punish officers for inaction criminally is opening a can of worms that will make it nearly impossible for already struggling departments to find people willing to do this thankless job.

I completely understand the anger and hurt of the parents of students killed or injured during this shooting, but the reality is that there is no way to know that this officer would have saved even a single life had he ran into that building.

While student safety is a component of the job, the position of school resource officer is one of community engagement, and many who work these positions are filled by officers who, quite frankly, aren’t necessarily wanting to do “police work” anymore for various reasons.

These aren’t SWAT officers trained in clearing buildings or squashing volatile, violent encounters. They are there to make nice with the kids and hopefully be a preventative influence against drugs or fights or the usual school related problems. The idea that a single school resource officer would always be able to stop a person with the advantage of knowing what his plan is and who is armed with assault rifles and God knows what else, is misguided.

These Florida legislators, prosecutors and sheriffs looking to extract a pound of flesh anywhere they can is ridiculous. They’re out for blood and taking it out on an essentially innocent, though clearly unpopular, bystander.

The shooter is the problem.

He is the bad guy.

This nonsense of charging the police officer detracts from that fact.

It also detracts from the fact that this deputy, if he’s like most officers these days, hasn’t been adequately trained in how to respond to such an incident.

Not enough anyway.

Training, training, training….It’s expensive, and it has been cut out of many police budgets completely, or shifted towards something else, usually more popular with the issue of the day.

While there is never enough training on gun violence or defensive tactics, departments always seem to find money to fund training on how to be sensitive or more politically correct to certain segments of society.

These things are important for sure, but so is knowing what to do in extraordinary, violent situations.

They become extremely important, if decades of jail time is the result for the officer who screws it up.

Police officers work best when they aren’t using their brains. Like athletes, muscle memory is our friend in high stakes situations, and clearly, this man didn’t have it ingrained in his police dna to run into that building.

I think most cops do now, like these guys.


These officers are running towards a gunman while college students are running away.

I bet they’re not even thinking about what they’re doing, they’re just doing it.

This is absolutely what we want to see from our cops, and I get that, but when that doesn’t happen, it can’t suddenly be criminal because we’re angry and need a scapegoat.

Florida is trying to use the child abuse/neglect statute to criminally charge this police officer. That I’m aware, this has never been done and is a complete stab in the dark effort to apply the criminal law where it wasn’t meant to reach.

Here’s a portion of the Florida child neglect statute, § 827.03 :

Neglect of a child” means:
1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
Except as otherwise provided in this section, neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.


In order to be found criminally liable, the state would need to prove the officer was a caregiver, which is also defined in the Florida criminal code as follows:

(1) “Caregiver” means a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.

It is quite a stretch to suggest a police officer is responsible for the welfare of a child because he’s assigned to the same school the child attends. If the child forgets his lunch, the police officer isn’t responsible to feed the child. The relationship isn’t what the law intended at all, and I’m sure digging into the legislative history of this law would show that to be the case.

As a final note, and I’m sorry this, I guess rant, went on so long, I will repeat my often unpopular opinion that no police officer or first responder owes his life for another.

When I hear people say that this officer knew what he was getting into when he took the job, I wonder if he really did.

Thirty years ago, when this man started his career, people weren’t free to run around with AR-15s or other assault rifles strapped to their bodies without it breaking the law.

Mass shootings and bombings were problems for other countries to deal with, not us.

Children being slaughtered in schools was unheard of back then, and police officers were supported as being the good guys, and given the tools they needed to do the job, including the most current training available.

Today’s police officer is under appreciated and more importantly, under equipped and trained to handle a situation like this.

Many don’t have assault rifles in their vehicles, or helmets/shields, etc. readily available, because those things cost money that most cities won’t spend.

Running after a person shooting an assault rifle, who may or may not be wearing body armor, with nothing but a handgun and your own body armor, is potentially suicide.

It’s a risk all of us say we would take though.

We all say it.

Most would probably do it.

Many, when the chips are down though, wouldn’t.

Should they be charged with a crime?

What if they’re not the SRO assigned to a school? Where do we draw the line?

Do we punish nearby officers who don’t drive to the school fast enough?

Are off-duty officers who live next to the school and hear shots potentially felons too, if they close the windows and go back to watching tv?

What if it’s shown that there were officers at the police station miles away, doing other work, who never left the building to go help? Do we charge them?

It’s a slippery slope that only the State of Florida could undertake to go down.



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Reckless? i don’t know…

I was sitting in a barbershop yesterday when some of the men around me started talking about a recent police involved shooting in the St. Louis area.

Long story short, a black woman, who is alleged to have been shoplifting at a grocery store in a VERY affluent part of our region, was having no part of a white, female officer arresting her, and ran off after one handcuff had been applied to her wrist. This is not unusual, as most resisting arrest incidents happen at this point of contact between a suspect and a police officer.

What is unusual however, is that the officer apparently told the woman that she was going to be Tased if she didn’t comply, and when the woman didn’t comply, she was shot, but not with the officer’s Taser.

She was shot with the officer’s pistol, a Glock nine millimeter.

The woman is still alive and will apparently live, but of course her injuries are painful and severe.

The officer, through her attorney, says that she yelled, “Taser, Taser, Taser,” as we are trained to do, and then, thinking that she was holding her Taser, shot at the woman once, which is completely consistent with using a Taser.

Once the officer realized her mistake, she rendered first aid and called for an ambulance.

The officer was very quickly charged by the new, Progressive County Prosecutor, Wesley Bell, with Assault in the 2nd Degree, a class D felony. Class D felonies can carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Back to the boys in the barbershop.

All of the men were white and all of them presumably lived in the area of the barbershop. My assumption is that they all had limited interaction with police officers outside of speeding tickets and the “usual” suburban law-abiding person/police contact.

To a man, each one had it in his head that the shooting was an accident and that the injured woman shouldn’t have been shoplifting in the first place.

Curious to see if this was the general consensus, I spied the local newspaper’s Facebook account and wasn’t disappointed at the varied reactions.

With nearly 600 comments, it’s obviously a hot topic, and, as with nearly everything nowadays, there are two camps.

Camp one would include the likes of the men in the barbershop. They argue that it was simply a mistake on the part of the officer and that the victim brought her injuries upon herself by shoplifting in the first place.

Camp two pundits insist that you’d basically have to be an idiot to mistake a Taser for a pistol and agree that the correct charge was filed against the officer because she acted recklessly.

What should the outcome here be?

I think most sane human beings in the United States could agree that shooting a person who is only suspected of shoplifting is egregious. A couple of years ago, this suspect’s behavior, because she struggled with an employee on her way out of the store, would have been a robbery, but that is no longer the case. Missouri law changed in 2017, so unless the grocery store employee is injured, she would only be guilty of stealing and maybe a minor level assault or peace disturbance, none of which would likely be felonies.

Assuming that the Tasing would have been justified initially, and I have no reason to suspect it wasn’t, if the officer truly thought she was firing her Taser, will the Assault 2nd charge stand?

I think that answer is no.

The prosecutor in this case has alleged that the officer was reckless in discharging her firearm. That word, reckless, is a legal one, and has a distinctly different meaning than I suspect many of the lay people who are calling her reckless are using it to mean.

Reckless is a word used to describe what the law calls a person’s mens rea, which is basically a person’s mental culpability in committing a crime.

We generally don’t charge people with a crime unless there is some iota of criminal intent on the part of the suspect. So, for example, when a person who has never had a seizure suddenly has one while he is driving, and kills a pedestrian, we would chalk that up as a terrible accident. The victim’s family would have to seek redress in a civil suit.

If that same man has another seizure while driving again and kills a second person under the very same circumstances, he could very easily find himself being charged with Involuntary Manslaughter. The idea is that he now had notice that he was prone to seizures and consciously disregarded the risk when he went ahead and drove that second time.

The conscious disregard is critical, as that’s what recklessness requires.

Did this officer consciously disregard the fact that she was holding her firearm and not her Taser? If the answer is no, then she cannot be found guilty of Assault 2nd or any charge that requires at least recklessness as its culpable mental state.

If she truly yelled, “Taser, Taser, Taser,” and fired just one time, that is consistent with Taser use and would hint that she truly thought she was holding her Taser.

Most officers are trained, because deadly force is meant to stop a threat of death or serious bodily injury to an officer or another person, to shoot a firearm multiple times, usually twice. If it’s found that she did fire twice in this case, which the victim’s family is claiming to be the case in spite of investigators saying otherwise, then maybe there’s merit to the state’s claim.

Mistaking a Taser for a gun is certainly stupid, and probably negligent in this context, but every person deals with stress differently. There will be arguments that the loaded gun is three times heavier than the Taser, and that the Taser is yellow and worn on the opposite side of the body from the firearm, etc.

All of these arguments will help to decipher, in the minds of the judge or jurors, whether she could have possibly not known that she was firing her gun and not the Taser.

Tunnel vision is a very real thing, and it’s entirely possible that this officer became stuck in a cloudy haze with respect to what her body was doing as she focused on the suspect running away. I can’t speak to that, but some have suggested that officers who work in areas with very little crime, especially violent crime, are perhaps more prone to find themselves subject to tunnel vision when they do have to react to a dangerous situation than those of us who can find a reason to chase and wrestle with a suspect everyday, just by leaving the police station.

This case hinges on what a judge or, potentially, jurors, think was going through the officer’s brain when she shot the suspect. I don’t know this woman, but her teary eyed mug shot makes me hope that she’s crying because she made a terrible mistake, not because she can’t believe she didn’t get away with attempted murder. That’s essentially what the prosecutor is saying with this charge.


Tears of regret over a terrible mistake or tears of disbelief that she was caught trying to kill a shoplifter? I think it’s the former.

A woman several years ago was warned that she had to keep her kids away from a certain area near her trailer because there was a duck pond nearby. One day, the woman let her two and four year old kids out to play and didn’t check on them for forty-five minutes, until the four year old came inside to tell his mom that his two year old brother was in the pond.

Forty-five minutes is an eternity to not know what your two year old is doing, right?

Any parent would agree with that.

The two year old was found floating in the pond, dead.

Ask yourself if this mother was reckless.

An appellate court said no, she wasn’t.

The court wanted more than just the duration of time and the warning about the pond, because we try not to incarcerate people for mistakes, even terribly stupid ones.

It’s not easy to prove what’s going on inside a person’s brain, and the shooting in this case happened, I’m guessing, very quickly from the time the suspect broke free of the officer and when the officer fired her gun.

Luckily, this woman will live and undoubtedly, this woman will get paid for her injuries and suffering and whatever else tort law allows.

That’s how the system, imperfect as it can be, is meant to work.

Charging the police officer to placate certain members of society is a travesty, unless the state truly believes it has a good case, and it might here, I don’t know all of the facts.

The officer’s attorney didn’t help her cause, in my opinion, by insinuating that the town would burn, once the officer was acquitted of the charge, which he called overcharging of his client.

People in this area are tired of protests and rioting, so to imply such a result could certainly sway a juror to simply find the officer guilty to avoid that mess.

Maybe I’m wrong, but that sort of statement is reckless.





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Some final words…

A few people who couldn’t make Officer Alix’s funeral have asked if they could read my speech, and this seems to be the easiest way to share it. It was apparently way too long, I guess I see that now, but who the hell puts a time limit on grievers talking about a loved one?

I was honored to be one of the speakers at her funeral. So honored.

You have to read it in my voice through tears and choke up several times to get the full effect.




Good morning.

I have worked for the Department now for just over 20 years.

During those twenty years I’ve answered, I don’t know how many thousands of radio calls.

Domestic Disturbances.

Calls for people suffering some sort of mental distress (OBSs) we call them.

Shots fired calls.

Assault calls.

Burglary calls.

Calls for Prowlers.

Calls for Robberies in progress.



Like most city officers, I’ve seen terribly grotesque injuries and deaths from all types of things befallen upon all types of people, from folks just a few months old to the elderly.

I’ve had foot chases and car chases down dark alleys and streets and had to wrestle countless people into handcuffs.

I’ve been cursed at, spit on and injured on-duty, but despite it all, if I retired tonight….

If I retired tonight, and somebody asked me, Don, what was the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your 20 years as a police officer?

I would say, unequivocally, this.

This, standing in front of all of you people, many friends, but a lot of strangers, right here, right now, to say a few words about Katlyn. To talk about a small part of the life of a young woman, a beautiful young woman, whose death has quite frankly, shaken me, her friends, and of course her beloved family, right to our collective cores,– a young woman whose life had really only just begun.

This right now, is literally the most difficult thing I’ve ever done while wearing my police uniform.

I’m ashamed, a little bit, to admit that when I was asked on Sunday night by Lieutenant McCloskey if I wanted to say a few words about Katlyn, I didn’t say yes right away. I was caught off guard at first, so I told him that I’d like to get back to him, if that was okay.

If I’m being honest, when I hung up the phone, I knew that I couldn’t say no to Katlyn’s family, and that I would be here today. I knew it.

I was admittedly nervous about whether or not I could come up with anything to say, let alone something worthy of honoring the way too short but very meaningful life Katlyn lived.

Even if I could cobble together a passable speech, would I be able to get the words out?

I literally made it fourteen steps into the Kutis Funeral Home yesterday before I saw one of Katlyn’s Academy classmates and started to break down in tears.

Standing up here and breaking down in tears again as I look out at all of Katlyn’s family, friends and well-wishers was and maybe it still is, a real possibility.

Maybe though, that would be more meaningful than any of these words I’ve written, because it would show, better than I can articulate with words, how I’m feeling right now.

So yeah, the thought of standing where I am right now scared me a little bit.

But, I talked to my wife and some of Katlyn’s other friends and I got over it fast, because they all assured me that Katlyn would want me to do this, and I knew that too, in my heart.

She was so darned feisty, that girl. I could just imagine her in heaven, shaking her fist and yelling at me while she called me terrible names that I can’t use here in the house of the Lord, and threatening to sock me in the gut or worse, to haunt me the rest of my days, were I to have declined to do this.

As I talked myself off the proverbial ledge in order to assure myself I could do this semi-competently, I thought about a seventeen or eighteen year-old Katlyn signing her name on the dotted line to enlist in the Army during a time when being deployed into some war zone was a very real possibility. That right there is something worthy of being nervous about, not what a bunch of people think about you because you’re terrible at public speaking.

It takes a lot of courage for any person to agree to enlist in the armed forces, especially a young woman fresh out of high school. The military is still very much a man’s world. That she was willing to thrust herself into that environment speaks volumes about her commitment to others as well as her bravery.

I thought of that very same young woman, now twenty-two years old, agreeing to join the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, also during a time of considerable unrest.

It’s no secret that the post-Ferguson reality for police departments is that it’s becoming harder and harder to find good people who want to do this job for a lot of reasons.

The job is tiresome and dangerous and so often thankless, especially on pay days.

In spite of all this, Katlyn badly wanted to do it. She wanted to be a police officer.

She wanted so badly to do it, I believe, because it’s just who she was. It was just in her personality and in her heart to be selfless; to give of herself in the service of other people. That is what brought her joy and meaning to her life.

So, in June of 2016, she started the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Academy.

That’s where I first met Katlyn.

I was an instructor at the Police Academy. I, along with Officer Donnie Walters, were her class supervisors. I also taught everybody’s favorite subject, law, which is why I was clearly the most popular instructor there.

In June of 2016 Katlyn was Recruit Alix to me.

Recruit Alix was one of thirty-nine men and women who made up Recruit Class 2016-02 on that first day.

The police recruits don’t have their brown recruit uniforms when they come into the Academy on that first day, so they dress in business attire.

I remember Katlyn, even on that first day.

She was dressed sharply, with her hair pulled back tightly against her head, up in a bun, almost uncomfortably looking so, but nothing was out of place. She moved with an obvious military infused precision, with no wasted motion or dawdling. She just had this sort of infectious energy about her and it was clear to me early on that she was ready for any challenge that we were going to throw at her.

Knowing her now, today, I know that she wasn’t a shy or bashful person per se, but she played that part those first few days in the Academy. I think she did that because she was smart. She was trying not to be noticed.

Not being noticed is a good game plan for getting through the Police Academy successfully, honestly. The best recruits don’t make any waves and just sort of fly under the radar for thirty weeks.

Unfortunately for Recruit Alix, she was already on my radar that first day.

In spite of her reluctance to be singled out, it was clear that she had the makings of a leader. I don’t know that I can pinpoint what it was then that made me think that, even today, but I remember being impressed with her. There was just something about the way she carried herself, her self-confidence and her maturity. Her mannerisms and personality belied her young age.

Each Academy class has a class president and a class vice president. These are fellow recruits who act as liaisons between the other recruits in the class and the staff. They are invaluable for an Academy instructor to have when they are competent.

I called Recruit Alix into my office sometime that first week and broached the idea of her being vice president for her class.

She was literally shaking her head no before I could even finish asking her the question or ask what her thoughts were on the matter.

She didn’t want any part of it.

I chuckled and assured her that she didn’t have a choice, that I was just being nice by asking, but I did appreciate that she thought that Officer Walters and I were running a Democracy.

Recruit Alix broke out of her shell, real or otherwise, soon enough and became a strong leader among her peers in that class.

She was very passionate and she was obviously driven to succeed.

I remember during one of the very first days of class, Katlyn raised her hand and asked – and I think I blame Donnie Walters for this – she asked about stats.


“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You know, stats for arrests and tickets and stuff,” she replied. “How do we get them?”

Stats are sort of one way the department gauge’s an officer’s productivity. An officer with a lot of arrests or tickets or reports written or whatever, is clearly doing more work than somebody who has a stat sheet with a bunch of zeroes on it, and she wanted to be one of those officers known as a worker.

Later, maybe it was days, maybe weeks, during a riveting Con Law discussion in the classroom about the criminal process, we touched on the warrant application process. This is basically where a police officer, believing he or she has probable cause for an arrest that he or she has normally already made, presents that case to the Circuit Attorney’s Office. If the assistant circuit attorney thinks it’s a good case, he or she will issue the officer’s case and it will move forward towards trial. When I mentioned that sometimes, or oftentimes nowadays, cases are also refused for various reasons, Katlyn’s hand went straight up in the air.

She sat in the very back row, and I ignored her for a minute, because I knew what was coming.

I knew what she was going to ask me, and sure enough, she did…

“Do we get credit for the arrest?” She asked. “If the warrant is refused?”

Do we still get a “stat?”

That’s just how she was.

She was a competitor, and she wanted to win. She wanted to be a champion. Good stats meant she was winning, that she was doing the job well.

Ask any of her recruit classmates what they remember about her and I bet many of them will tell you that they remember her yelling and screaming at them to push themselves harder while running on the track during physical training.

She wasn’t yelling to be mean. She was yelling because she got it.

Katie just got it.

She knew that pushing yourself in the Academy meant you’d naturally push yourself on the streets, when your very life might depend on pushing yourself past your comfort zone.

She was pushing her classmates to make them better police officers. She was pushing them to help protect their very lives.

And she wasn’t just rattling cages and yelling to be heard, either. That girl practiced what she was preaching. Once, she pushed herself so hard running on the track that she lost her breakfast and caught it in her shirt. She finished the rest of her run like that without complaint.

The police academy isn’t easy.

There is a lot of material for recruits to take in. Just the laws and department policies alone are overwhelming to try to remember, let alone defensive tactics maneuvers, cpr, mental health best practices, and everything else that goes along with learning how to be a good police officer.

Recruits have to be able to balance their personal lives with their Academy work to succeed.

In the end, class 16-02 lost thirteen good people from that first day of class for various reasons and finished with twenty-six at graduation.

Almost each class loses a handful of recruits and graduates with less than what they started with. Some fail academically, others just aren’t quite prepared for the physical rigors, others are booted for disciplinary issues and some just decide on their own that the job isn’t for them.

Those people are to be applauded for recognizing that before they get themselves or somebody else hurt.

This job is not a job for everyone. In fact, I’m loathe to even call it a job. It’s a calling, really. Policing chooses you, and if it is your calling, you’ll be hooked and you’ll know you’re hooked.

The academy is hard because policing is hard.

It’s hard for obvious reasons such as those risks inherent in the work like dealing with armed bad guys hellbent on avoiding jail, or traffic accidents, but it’s also hard for reasons that are more mental than physical.

Patrolling in the city, every day, in areas where there is so much blight and violence can wear any person down, mentally.

Dealing with other peoples’ problems, some big and others small, all the time can wear any person down.

Having a front row seat to watch human beings treat each other so often with such callous disregard can wear any person down.

Katlyn wanted to be in the middle of all of these things anyway.

She wanted to go where the action was when she graduated, and she certainly got her wish when she was assigned to the Sixth District after graduation. District six covers basically the northernmost part of St. Louis City, and finds itself the leader in violent crimes nearly every single year.

That’s a stat that I’m sure made Katlyn eager to begin her career there.

In spite of its reputation, I never worried about Katlyn going to the Sixth District. In fact, I knew it was going to be a perfect fit for her. Every day there is a new adventure, a new challenge, and the mix of officers there are some of the best in the city. I had no doubt she’d fit right in.

I was further tickled to learn that she would be assigned to then Police Officer Suzy Kearney in Field Training. I worked with Suzy in the 6th District and don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed answering calls with another officer as much as I did with her.

Suzy is a detective now, deservedly so.

I knew they’d not only be great policing partners, but they’d get along great as friends to boot. Or “pals” as Suzy would say.

To know Detective Kearney is to love her, same as with Officer Alix. They were a great match.

I think women have a different experience with this job than men do, at least a little bit, so I thought it was outstanding that Suzy could impart what she knew about that aspect of the job to Katlyn as well.

Katlyn and I stayed in touch after she graduated from the academy, and during the course of my getting to know her as Police Officer Alix, I became impressed with her quick understanding of the realities of the job and the city.

She learned quickly that her thirst for stats wasn’t always congruent with her even stronger thirst to do what was best or right in her mind and to help people who were down on their luck.

We talked about the rampant poverty that she saw in so much of that part of the city and how hard it was sometimes to know that you just can’t help everyone.

She understood not to take the job personally and that people who misbehave after a few drinks on Friday night aren’t necessarily terrible people come Monday mornings. She didn’t hold unnecessary grudges and she brought a fresh attitude to each person she encountered.

She made going to work more enjoyable for everyone who worked with her.

It took me years to appreciate some of these nuances that Katlyn was beginning to understand already, with just two years on the job.

You have to grow up fast when you start your career in the sixth district, and she certainly did just that.

Katlyn worked hard and she brought that same effort to her personal life.

After she graduated, Katlyn would come to the academy gym regularly, not be seen, but to work her butt off. She would push and push and push herself because, as she confided in me one day, she wanted to be able to see whatever in the world these muscles were. (point to hips)

Katlyn was strong of body and of mind.

She had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals and children.

Katlyn worshipped her doodle dog and puppy and absolutely loved her curly haired little nephew. She talked about how she wished she could take all the homeless dogs and less fortunate kids and give them a better life somewhere safe.

She meant it.

It literally hurt her heart when she felt like she couldn’t save a dog or a kid from a less than desirable situation.

When I saw her name on a recent transfer list, I was surprised, and I had to tease her for being moved from the Sixth District to the much less violent Second District.

When I ribbed her about her being tired of the action after only two years, she told me that she had to make the move so she could work nights in order to go to nursing school.

I loved hearing that from her.

I always harped on the recruits and even now, the officers who work for me, to get as much training and education as they can, especially if they can get the department to pay for it, so I was so proud of her, but not surprised, of course, because if there’s any profession that requires more heart and soul and commitment to one’s fellow man than policing, it’s nursing.

She would have been an amazing nurse, unfortunately, of course, Katlyn’s story ended before she got to be a nurse or even step foot into a nursing classroom.

To say that her death was unexpected and shocking is an understatement.

Like many of you, I’ve spent nearly the past week in a mental fog, in a daze, sometimes angry, but more often just hurt and frustrated that a light that shined so bright, could be extinguished just like that.

I don’t feel the loss of Katlyn so deeply because she was a police officer. That’s a part of it, sure, but I feel it because of who she was, because of the kind of person she was, and because I know that the world is a worse place without her in it.

She still had a lot of growing up and living left to do.

I only knew Katlyn for two and a half years and I am almost twice her age, a generation apart, really. Even so, we were more alike than you might think. For me to be able to tell you that I loved that kid like she was one of my own is a testament to what an incredible young woman she was.

To her family, especially Tony and Aimee and Taylor, and her friends who knew her even better than I did, and to all the great current and former soldiers and police officers who went to battle side by side with her every day or every shift, I can’t imagine your grief, if mine has been any indication.

You all have my gratitude and my condolences.

Thank you so much for giving me the honor of doing this today. It means so much to me.

May we all find peace during this terribly sad time.

Thank you and God bless.

Posted in Police, Police Stories, The not meant to be funny stuff | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Tragedy spares nobody…

When it comes to tragedy, there surely can be no better place to have your heart broken or spirit crushed than by being associated with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

I don’t know if egregious misfortune is endemic to this police department, but it’s the only place I’ve ever worked as a police officer. I suspect most other major, urban departments have the same issues that we do.

There just seem to be so many.

It’s never a matter of if something stunning or unfortunate is going to happen, but rather when.

Long spells of  quiet have always made me nervous, because that always means we’re due.

If it’s not a police shooting, it’s a cop’s young wife or child or the cop himself dying of cancer. If it’s not cancer, it’s a police officer having a heart attack or falling from a roof and dying, or blowing his brains out in the parking lot.

It’s just one awful thing after another.

Maybe part of the problem is that police officers don’t take just the local deaths to heart. Many of us feel it when another police officer is killed or dies tragically anywhere in the country, and for some, maybe the world.

We mourn for strangers we call brothers and sisters in a way that I don’t think other professionals do. Maybe it’s not healthy, but family is family.

When I posted last, I used a picture of a young lady who was shot and killed while responding to a mundane traffic accident call.

She was a police officer in California. She was young and appeared happy and had a bright future ahead of her, until she was gunned down by a lunatic for reasons I still don’t think we know for certain.


Davis, CA Police Officer Natalie Corona

I remember being taken aback a little bit by the picture of this young lady, because she reminded me of one of my favorite St. Louis Police Officers, PO Katlyn Alix.


PO Katlyn Alix. EOW 1/24/19

If you told me they were sisters, I’d have no reason to call you a liar.

Last night, Officer Alix was shot and killed, while she was off duty, in what is currently being called an accident.

I suspect that’s the best term for it, an accident. I have zero clue what happened at this point. I have no details about the shooting and I don’t want to dwell on that or what I think the fallout might or should be, depending on what happened, instead, this is just a post about my friend to help me move on.

I met Officer Alix when I was teaching law at the Police Academy. Back then she was recruit Alix.

I was her class’s supervisor, which meant that I would basically help guide them, begrudgingly at times for all of us, through their thirty weeks of training, until they graduated into police officers.

She was one of thirty-nine in her class on that first day in June, 2016.

I recall she was quiet and shy, or at least she acted that way back then. I think she wanted to fly under the radar and just get through unnoticed.

That’s how the good ones get through the Academy, quiet and unassuming.

I had other ideas, however. She was or acted almost too bashful, so I appointed her the assistant class president, along with another young lady who served as president.

I chose Recruit Alix because I knew she’d been in the military, so she wasn’t soft. She would stand up to the other recruits on my behalf and put her foot in their rear ends, were that necessary.

There was something about her that told me she was a good egg and that she would be a good recruit. We have to compile all of the recruits’ personal information when they start, so I knew she was also a Pisces, like me.

I only remember that because she was born on the same date as a grade school friend of mine, Mark Martinez, March 12th. I remember Mark’s birthday because we shared our class parties during our time in grade school together. He was born on the 12th and another girl, Jeanie, the 31st. She also shared in the March party.

Oddly, Mark also died way too young. He was shot and killed when he was just seventeen in the old McRee Town Neighborhood, which would later be the first area I would patrol as a brand new police officer.

Recruit Alix sailed through the Academy with little problem. She was athletic and smart. She was inquisitive and asked good questions.

She stood out in a final recruit class of twenty-six very good recruits at graduation. I knew that she was going to be a special police officer.


PO Alix, front and center with her 2016-02 class

Officer Alix wanted to go where the action was, and got her wish when she was assigned to the Sixth District.

If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ll know that the Sixth District is where I patrolled for a few years and where most of my terrible stories come from.

On duty, Officer Alix was assertive yet compassionate. She understood, early on, really, the human aspect of this job and she empathized with people she saw everyday who were struggling to survive, let alone live.

She’d mentioned to me a few times that she didn’t understand it, the blight and despair, but she wanted so badly to help.

She once posted a picture on Facebook of herself in uniform; she was holding a baby in her arms and wrote a long post about the baby’s mother’s struggle with heroin. I don’t remember the details, but I remember I was in my patrol car when I read it and was so moved by it that I texted her right away to tell her how proud I was of her.

She was made to remove that post by her commander, because God forbid a young officer show any heart or compassion about this job on social media. She was told her post violated HIPAA, which is complete garbage, as police officers aren’t subject to HIPAA. Please tell me, if I’m wrong about that.

Anyway, it was so moving and just showed the sort of person she was, even in uniform.

In spite of the oftentimes depressing surroundings, Officer Alix knew how to have fun with the job, which is important, if you want to do it for any extended time.


Always having fun.

She also loved her dog, who I suddenly feel terribly sorry for as I type this right now, because nobody will ever be able to love that puppy like she did, no matter how hard they might try. She loved him like only those people who are just so goddam good hearted and sweet can love an animal. You know the type. They’re just special human beings.

Once, before she graduated from the Academy, she came to me and asked rather sheepishly if I knew anybody who wanted a dog.

It was a weird question under normal circumstances, but even weirder then because my mom had literally told me less than a week earlier that my dad wanted a dog.

He wanted a little dog. I think maybe it was another midlife thing.

Anyway, her mom had found this dog on the side of a roadway all matted, lost and confused, but they couldn’t keep it because her mom had a dog already and get this….monkeys.


When Recruit Alix first told me that she had a brother and sister who were monkeys, I didn’t know what to make of that info, so I let it go. It turns out that they’re literally monkeys, sort of like Ross from the show Friends had.

Anyway, they couldn’t keep the dog and my parents couldn’t have been anymore interested, so we made a match.

I drove a ways to get the dog and got to meet Katlyn’s mom. She was a sweet woman and, of course, mentioned that she worried about her daughter’s safety.

I never assure anybody that their son or daughter will be fine, because with this job, you never know. We talked a bit about how Katlyn had the tools to be better than most officers, and I think we parted ways with her feeling better about her daughter’s future venture into North St. Louis.

The dog has made my folks imminently happier for whatever reason, and I’ll be forever grateful to Katlyn for that.

I would send her a pic of the dog from time to time, because I knew it made her happy to see Tennessee Whiskey Hangover (Tenny for short) doing well.


Officer Alix was a friend to many. She was a daughter, a wife, a sister and a super proud aunt to a handsome little guy she loved with all her might.

She served her country in the Army and the St. Louis community as a police officer. She squeezed more into her twenty-four years than many of us will into our whole lives.

Her death really sucks.

This one stings, perhaps maybe more than any other in my twenty years of SLMPD deaths.

I used to only jokingly call my recruits my babies, but the truth is that I did and do still care for all of them, all of you, since I know some of you will read this.

I hope, if you’re a police officer, and you’re grieving, you will think about what you wished you could have said to Katlyn, if you had the chance, and make sure you say those same sorts of things to those who are important to you that you still can say them to.

Godspeed, young lady.







Posted in Police, The not meant to be funny stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

The appreciation is appreciated…

National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is apparently a thing.

It’s January 9th, the same day as National Apricot Day and National Static Electricity Day.

I kid you not.

I had several people send me thoughtful messages on National Law Enforcement Day, and I loved every single one, even though I had no idea when it was.

It’s always nice to hear that you’re appreciated by people, especially when the appreciation is for the job you do.

I oftentimes go out of my way to make sure that my kids’ teachers and nurses and other people who do jobs that seem so thankless, yet are so important, know that they are appreciated.

I do it because I know that in my own life, just when I have myself convinced that I’ve wasted a good chunk of my life doing a job that many others find so appalling, somebody will say or do something so sweet, and I’m reminded that I matter.

That policing matters.

The people who sign up to do this job, no, it’s not really a job….this calling, matter.

It may be a simple “thank you for your service” from a stranger, or a meal comped by a restaurant owner, or a phone call from a victim or victim’s family member to tell you that they appreciate your help, even though that’s just doing the job.

It’s little things that add up and mean so much, and for me, these messages have always come at just the right time.

I remember being at my lowest about being a police officer during the unrest in Ferguson back in 2014.

Disdain for police officers and disregard for the law were at all time highs, particularly in our region. While the riots were going on to the north in Ferguson, stores here in St. Louis were being looted by mobs of people with total disregard for any consequences.

Drivers were racing up and down city streets and weren’t stopping at red lights as though they didn’t exist at all. Society, at least where I was in North St. Louis, seemed to literally be crumbling right before my eyes.

I hated that we seemed to be losing control of a semi-civilized society, and I seriously wondered if I could tolerate wearing my uniform much longer.

But, we persevered.

Officers worked hard and did the best we could to maintain law and order until the crisis blew over, at least for the time being.

At one point though, when I was at my lowest, an elderly black woman stopped me in the parking lot of a truck stop to ask if she could pray with me.

Not for me, but with me.

She had clearly been waiting by my parked police car for me to come outside.

She was adorned in a yellow dress and white gloves that went halfway up her forearms. She wore a circular, white hat, angled on her head. It had some sort of netting over her eyes and she carried a white purse that seemed too big for such a petite woman. It was not unusual attire for a Sunday morning in North City, as many of the best people in the worst part of our city are women such as this, a woman whose faith has probably carried her through a difficult life.

When old women talk, I listen.

Always have.

I agreed to the prayer and put my iced tea on the hood of my Tahoe.

We held hands in the parking lot and she did the praying for both of us.

She prayed for my safety, and also the safety of the community and she prayed that God would give me the wisdom and courage to use good judgement and to treat people fairly.

I sensed the prayer was in no small part a message to me, but she was sincere in all that she asked God for and I felt blessed for the two or three minutes we spent together.

I left that encounter with renewed vigor for my job.

It’s people like this old woman and others like her, who need us to have their backs, just as they silently have ours.

The helpless and vulnerable appreciate us, even if they don’t always get to say it, every day of the year.

In the two days since January 9th, Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, two officers have been shot and killed.

They were both young females, new to the job, and they were both doing mundane and seemingly harmless activities.

Davis, California Police Officer Natalie Corona was shot and killed as she responded to a three car accident. There are fewer types of calls for a police officer less perfunctory than an accident call. I’m sure the officer figured she’d write a report for the parties involved to give to their insurance companies and be on to the next call in no time.

As a new cop, I bet she itched for a more exciting call next time, rather than this ridiculous accident call that ended her life.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, Officer Chateri Payne was getting dressed in her uniform when she was shot and killed.  I’m not aware, at this point, whether her death has anything to do with her being a police officer, but still, she was a beautiful, young woman.

Her life mattered, regardless of why she was killed.

There was a time when the violent death of a woman was in many respects unusual, particularly when the suspect was a stranger.

There used to be some chivalry, even among gangsters and crooks, when it came to women and children.

They were off limits.

There are no longer boundaries it seems, and anybody, young or old, man or woman, is fair game for thievery and violence.

This includes police officers as well, of course.

Locally, a new class graduated from the St. Louis Police Academy last night, and I wonder what they’re thinking.

They’re excited to start a new job, I know that. I remember that excitement myself.

I hope they’re also fearful about the realities of the job they swore to do in front of their families and friends.

I hope they’ve read about Officer Payne and Officer Corona and appreciate how quickly things can take a turn for the worse in this job.

Complacency gets people hurt or killed on the streets, so finding the line between being on guard and being overly paranoid with everyone they meet is something that they’ll have to learn on their own.

It’s important for officers to trust their instincts, and not put themselves in obvious danger, but it’s just as important to understand that danger lurks even when one’s radar doesn’t sense it at all.

Five officers have died in the United States in the ten days since 2019 started, including the two most recent young ladies I’ve mentioned.

It’s demoralizing and frustrating for officers to deal with the deaths and assaults of other officers, even officers hundreds of miles away.

We all take the blame when an officer does wrong, and we accept that, so it’s only right that society understands that we all share the pain when one of us is killed senselessly.

We know that we can be next.

We’ll mourn in our own ways and we’ll learn, tactically, from their deaths.

While it’s important for officers to remain vigilant, it’s also important to remember that most people are not out to get us.

Most people appreciate us and the job we do, every single day, and not just on the day we share with National Apricot or Static Electricity Day.



Posted in Police, Police Stories, The not meant to be funny stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments