Police Chief Dan Isom was at a news conference this morning. He said that he would have liked to have been talking about the hard work the department is doing in city neighborhoods; the individual successes of his officers; the promise, talent, and challenges of some of the newest generation of command officers; the innovative strategies and cutting-edge technologies the department is now using to reduce crime: or the many little stories of how his officers have helped the people they serve in a big way. Instead, he said, he had to talk about another tone-deaf decision of the police department’s business managers.
Things will change, the chief said today. And I believe him.
The police department does too many things because that’s the way they have always been done, often without adequate internal controls. Chief Isom was hired to run the department because he pledged to break away from past bad practices. The latest missteps are another example of what he must fix.
The vast majority of the men and women of the police department do a tough job well. Crime is down in most neighborhoods; and the department is closely focused on the least safe neighborhoods and the most dangerous criminals.
The police department understands that crime fighting is its first job, but not its only one. It must also use its resources prudently and earn the confidence of the taxpayers. Because of the unique nature of its governance by the state, the police department’s financial relationship with the citizens of St. Louis makes no common sense. That, too, must change.
In the meantime, the new chief has a job to do. The department’s business practices have lagged those of other City departments and many local companies. Recent stories demonstrate that — and, since several of them were matters first uncovered by the police department itself, they also demonstrate that the department is willing to be transparent and to reform.
Chief Isom added some extra urgency to that willingness this morning. Good for him.