You probably want to know what my appointment means. Here’s what I think:
My appointment gives us a chance for a fresh start. Running the City’s largest department is a killing job. Sam decided to leave for another job opportunity. I know what it is, and I congratulate him. That, however, is his announcement to make.
Sam and I have different styles, different skills, and different friends. I know that things are going to feel - and be - different in Public Safety.
Some important things, though, won’t change. Chief George must still make the promotions by Friday. That order stands - and I endorse it. If he doesn’t, he - like you, me, or anybody else who refused to obey an order and do their job - will face disciplinary action.
Once promotions get made, I am going to spend a great deal of time addressing some unrest in the Fire Department. While most of that unrest has to do with things like promotions and transfers, it keeps playing itself out in the language of race. It is, therefore, absolutely accurate to say the Fire Department, which is the most racially diverse fire department in the region, also has a race problem. I am going to bring together people of good will from throughout the community to help guide me on that. And I expect to find plenty of support within the Fire Department itself. I think that relatively few St. Louis firefighters talk or feel like the angry ones you see on TV. Most firefighters like their jobs, love their City, and - again, like the rest of us - want the best for their families.
I am also going to work with Rick Frank and the Chief to get a new entry level written test as quickly as possible. We need more new firefighters than, say, building inspectors because firefighters retire relatively young. We are not going to dumb down the test just to get firefighters, because that would dumb down the Fire Department. We are going try using a different format to find out if that was the problem on the last test.
I also want to get the investigation into the use of probationary officers on private property wrapped up. That investigation has gone on for far too long. If there’s something there, let’s say so. If not, let’s get back to work.
In the Corrections Division, I am going to take a fresh look at how we supervise our contract with our outside medical provider. I am also looking forward to a plan being put together by Gene Stubblefield to add even more jail space so we can keep more criminals off of the streets for longer periods of time.