My votes today to accept Chief Joe Mokwa’s retirement and to oppose a major severance payment were not about my personal friendship with Joe or his past service to the City of St. Louis . Were they, I might have argued differently. I have been Joe Mokwa’s supporter for years.
I voted the way I did because I believe that the distractions posed by unanswered questions about the nature and scope of the practice of borrowing impounded cars, the unresolved tensions between some police officers and the chief, a growing number of factions within the department, a federal investigation, and the way this is dividing our City were too likely to interfere with the chief’s ability to lead the department any further. With overall crime now falling and murders rising, St. Louis does not need a distracted police chief.
I neither know nor believe that Joe Mokwa has done anything wrong; I have just come to believe that his ability to do his job effectively was seriously impaired by the events.
The Board agreed it was time for a change. I strongly commend the members of the Board for making the tough decision to accept the Chief’s retirement.
I do not, however, agree with the Board’s decision to offer a severance package.
I think it was the wrong thing to do at a time when the department is struggling for resources, and its rank and file officers are hoping for higher salaries or stronger benefits. I think the majority did what they thought was best. I respect them for that, but I disagree with the decision.
An on-going federal investigation will get to the bottom of the issues raised by the Police Board and by local news media. The findings will be what they are, and we will go on from there.
Chief Mokwa retired, honorably, to allow the department he led to get on with its job of keeping St. Louis neighborhoods safe. However you feel about the events that led up to his retirement, it is important to acknowledge his intention.
We will soon begin the process of choosing a new police chief. I want someone who is committed to making our neighborhoods safe, and who will protect the department’s integrity.