Damned if you don’t…

In a city that consistently ranks as one of the most violent in the country, if not the world, this is what today’s online paper looks like:

The top story on the front page of the most read website in St. Louis is about a cop giving a fist bump to a motorcyclist on Natural Bridge Blvd.

If that road sounds familiar to you, even those of you who’ve never been to St. Louis, it’s because you’ve maybe heard it in a Nelly or other rapper’s song, or you may have read that it’s one of the most dangerous streets in the country.

Murder after murder and shooting after shooting, none of it creates more than a blip on the local media scene, because dead young people is old news.

We’ve grown accustomed and oblivious to the fact that a couple of hundred young men and women will die on our city streets alone at the hands of violence, and we honestly couldn’t collectively care less, as long as it’s not a police officer who is the “killer.”

Those damned police officers. I guess we make for good ratings.

Every Sunday, when the weather is nice, hundreds of people take to the streets in their cars, motorcycles and even their ATV’s, and cruise all around the north city and downtown areas.

The cruisers are loud, oftentimes armed, and almost always end their night with somebody getting shot or killed over something stupid. It has been a headache for police officers in St. Louis City for every bit of the almost 20 years I’ve been a cop, and nothing has changed other than it’s gotten worse.

It’s gotten worse in part because police officers aren’t allowed to enforce the law by chasing down those who choose to break them, and the “bad guys” know this.

When a police officer in the city gets behind a car and turns the lights on, there’s a 50/50 chance the car will stop. If that car is a sport bike, those odds go down in the officer’s favor tremendously.

To be quite honest, I don’t even waste my time trying to stop them when I see them break a traffic law now, and I’m sure this officer feels the same way. In a best case scenario, the biker takes off and maybe crashes into something hard, hopefully not injuring himself too badly, so he or she can be ticketed and arrested. An ambulance has to show up to take him to the hospital, and then officers will have to sit with the biker until a doctor declares them fit for confinement. It’s a lot of resources being used to enforce a traffic violation.

In a suburb or small town, that’s great.

In the City of St. Louis, we simply don’t have time for this. We don’t have time to chase bikers and cruisers around, especially when the odds are great that our state prosecutor, not only won’t issue any charges against the offending biker, but would bend over backwards to find a way to charge a police officer criminally, should a biker kill himself or god forbid, somebody else.

I’m not condoning fist bumping the biker, but an officer trying to be cool with somebody who presumably doesn’t like him is what we’re all about now. Building bridges and all that feel good crap, right?

Where there’s one sport bike, there are many. Turning lights on and causing bikes to race off in various directions at high speeds is not a better alternative to doing nothing.

Monday morning quarterbacking from people who’ve never answered a 911 call is tiresome to witness over and over again.

“I would’ve done this…” or “He shoulda done that…” Ya know what?

Shut up.

If you’ve never pursued another car on city streets, you have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s the most dangerous thing that we as officers can do, and it’s a last resort reserved only for the most violent of offenders.

That wasn’t a decision made by a police officer.

No, we actually love to chase cars. The decision not to allow pursuits, and it’s probably the right one, up to a certain extent, was made because that’s what society has decided it wants, either explicitly or via large judgements in courts of law across the country against officers and departments who are involved in pursuits that end in injury or death

Losing money causes change, and now, we don’t chase people.

That the local newspaper has thrown it on it’s online version’s front page should be more of a reckoning as to what passes for news nowadays than the perception that city officers, or this one specifically, did something wrong.

Viral videos shared by others on FB or Twitter is one thing, but viral content sharing being passed on as journalism is putrid. I’m not suggesting that the Post is wrong to share the story, but the way it’s presented is antagonistic against city officers, and that’s what the goal is. The paper loves to have a lively group of pro versus anti police readers clicking away on their website. It’s trash journalism, but it’s apparently where we are today.

This officer was in a no-win situation. He knew these bikers weren’t going to stop. We all know that. Why risk injury or death or even just the embarrassment of having bikers race off on you only so you can turn your lights off and carry on in your travels?

While the commenting is certainly entertaining, at the end of the day, the problem won’t be solved until somebody decides to put their foot down.

I don’t have the answer to what that is when it comes to keeping sport bikes from doing stunts on busy roads, but I know that if I have a choice today between fist bumping a wheelie rider or chasing him until somebody crashes and I lose my job, then I’ll be sticking my fist out the window next time as well.

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7 Responses to Damned if you don’t…

  1. Anonymous says:

    You are so right Don, people don’t want the police to do their jobs. But, they sure cry when they need them .

  2. I wonder if that paper would publish this piece on their opinion page? (said somewhat tongue in cheek) Brilliant assessment all the way around. Definitely sensationalist journalism there. Other than the photo and article you were discussing here, the one that got me personally was the one about the bully being bullied by their father. When I was a kid and was in a lot of pain, I bullied neighbor kids. Thankfully not too badly. I was also bullied by kids and abused in my own home. Crappy sensationalist journalism.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree that this is sensationalist journalism that is demonizing the cop for no reason. Since when is journalism merely putting the latest viral video up, saying “look at that”, and adding fluff opinions to make it seem more than it is. People being the Monday morning quarterback have no clue. A group of bikes wheelie-ing down Natural Bridge are committing less traffic infractions compared to the cars that routinely speed, blow through stop signs/red lights, and hit and run from accidents. One cruise through downtown, whether surface streets or interstate, will show a disturbing number of cars with expired temp tags doing nearly double the speed limit. Pointing at these bikers as a major problem is laughable at best, and merely distracts from the key issues that plague the city. From what I’ve seen, the majority of bystanders that witness bikes doing stunts whip out their phones to film, pumping fists in the air, cheering it on like it’s the best thing they’ve seen all week. Some have even tried to make it a positive movement; Guns Down Wheels Up.

    For those saying that they should do it somewhere else…. Where? For years, the riders that wheelie have been ran off from secluded parking lots, been ticketed/arrested for being there, and had their bikes impounded. The only way to keep such riders off the streets is by letting them ride in an empty lot, but since that has been made just as illegal as the streets, they might as well ride where there’s an audience and they have a better chance of not getting caught. Parks are built for people that play any variety of sport; baseball, basketball, soccer, skateboarding, etc. The only thing stunt riders need is an empty, relatively flat, concrete/asphalt parking lot. As long as there’s bikes, there’s gonna be wheelies. And as the adage goes, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

  4. markbialczak says:

    You can’t seem to win with the general public, Don. That stinks. That story is up there because it’s good click bait. That stinks, too.

  5. Alex S says:

    As someone who checks almost daily to see if you’ve posted something new, I’m glad to see you post again. I also appreciate your insight on this story. As a dispatcher for St. Louis county, I can’t tell you how often we roll our eyes when agencies such as St Ann pursues for only traffic charges. There’s no way it’s worth it. I wish people on a larger scale could read your blogs. Keep it up though because I thoroughly enjoy them.

    • Thanks so much! It’s been hard to write for a number of reasons, but hearing that some people actually enjoy reading it helps to motivate. Thanks for your dispatcher service. What an under appreciated job that is. I love my dispatchers.

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